Jury Awards Family $4.3M After Catheterization Procedure Fails
A jury awarded the estate and family of a man $4.3 million after they determined that his doctors were liable for his death. According to the lawsuit, the patient underwent a catheterization procedure to determine whether his heart was functioning properly after an EKG came back abnormal. The lawsuit alleged that the doctor inserted the catheter too far into the patient causing the contrast dye to be injected directly into the heart wall. This resulted in a rupture of the heart which killed the patient.
This is an example of a lawsuit filed on the grounds of surgical malpractice. The catheterization, while a routine and relatively safe procedure, is invasive. In this case, the procedure was performed incorrectly resulting in the patient’s death.
This does not sound like the type of case that typically goes to trial. When a clear theory of liability exists, the defense typically agrees to settle the case. Chances are good that the plaintiff’s asking figure was higher than they wanted to settle for. It is also likely that the demand figure was larger than what the jury returned. Ultimately, a jury hearing these arguments is going to return a verdict in favor of the plaintiff but the question then becomes: How much can the plaintiff recover? In this case, $4.3 million for wrongful death is about standard. It remains unclear what the insurance company offered.
Analyzing the defense
So, in a trial like this, what can the defense say to defeat the plaintiff’s claim? Essentially, they blame the death on something else. While we don’t have access to the defense’s arguments in this case, they may have argued that the catheterization mistake would not have killed an otherwise healthy patient. However, they weren’t dealing with an otherwise healthy patient, they were treating a man who had a heart condition. They made the condition worse and that led to his death.
Attorneys for defendants will claim that while the death was tragic, it may not have been avoidable and, even if it was avoidable, the doctor could not have known about the potential complication beforehand. Ultimately, medical practice is standardized, so if the doctor can justify their decision, it’s hard to claim they did something wrong unless it deviates from the prevailing standard of care. In those cases, the doctor may only take cases that are complicated. This could mean there is no prevailing standard of care.
Ultimately, medical malpractice lawsuits are difficult to win, but patients end up severely injured and require lifelong support, so that money is necessary. In cases where they die, their families lose a stream of income which can leave them destitute. So, it’s about more than just sadness and grief.
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