Recently in Medical Errors Category

April 13, 2012

Jury awards woman $1.9 million for overprescription of pain medication

pill bottle.jpgA 9-member jury awarded a woman $1.9 million Thursday, after it found that a doctor overprescribed methadone for pain treatment, which caused the woman to stop breathing and suffer brain damage. Overprescription of medication can have devastating effects for patients, including those in Maryland.

Our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have years of experience representing Plaintiffs who have suffered injuries as result of the negligence of health care providers.

The woman, Charlene Whalen of Bangor, Maine, sued Dr. Steven Weisberger who treated her for chronic back pain. The Complaint alleged that the dosage of methadone Dr. Weisberger prescribed was too high, which caused brain damage from oxygen deprivation after she stopped breathing while sleeping.

The doctor was a practitioner of a therapy called Prolotherapy, which involves injections into the area around a patient's spine that intentionally causes inflammation designed to help promote healing. Dr. Weisberger prescribed methadone from the resulting pain.

About 48 hours after she was prescribed Methadone, Whalen's fiancé found her unresponsive in the middle of the night. She was eventually revived, but the resulting deprivation of oxygen resulted in brain damage that affected her ability to multitask and perform tasks that would allow her to work.

The Plaintiff's experts opined that the amount of methadone Plaintiff was prescribed was eight times the amount recommended by experts in the field. The Defense countered that the dosage was within an appropriate range.

The Defense contended that the Plaintiff never alerted the pharmacist who filled the methadone prescription that she had breathing problems and suffered sleep apnea. Additionally, the Defense argued that Plaintiff had no future lost income, since she never intended to return to work.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours.

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February 14, 2012

Maryland Court of Special Appeals holds Good Samaritan Statute does not apply to companies

medical helicopter.jpgThe Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a Talbot County Circuit Court Judge's ruling that a mother could not sue a commercial ambulance company for negligence, last Thursday, holding that the trial judge erred in his interpretation of the Maryland Good Samaritan Statute.

Our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have more than 30 years of experience representing the rights of Plaintiffs who have suffered damages due to the negligence of others.

In Murray v. Transcare Maryland, TransCare argued that as a commercial ambulance company it was entitled to immunity based on the Maryland Good Samaritan State and the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act. The Court of Special Appeals panel held that although Maryland State law protects municipal firefighter and rescue operators from liability, both the Maryland Fire and Rescue Act and the Maryland Good Samaritan Statute, do not protect commercial ambulance services, such as the services provided by TransCare, from liability. The Court's decision allows the Plaintiff to pursue a claim against TransCare.

The events at issue occurred on November 15, 2007, when an air transport company was required to transport a child from Memorial Hospital at Easton to University of Maryland Medical System's (UMMS) Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, because the Easton hospital was not equipped to manage an intubated child. TransCare employed a paramedic on board the transport helicopter who failed to find an oxygen mask after the airway of the child, Bryson Murray, became blocked by a breathing tube.

Unable to find an oxygen mask on board, the air transport required an emergency landing before a mask could be found, and by that time the child had suffered permanent brain damage.

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January 31, 2012

Maryland Court of Appeals upholds multi-million dollar medical malpractice judgment

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The Maryland Court of Appeals last Friday upheld a Baltimore County trial court's denial of a physician's motion for a new trial, after a jury awarded $13 million to a family whose child was born with severe cerebral palsy. The jury found that the physician breached his duty to obtain the mother's informed consent to treatment when he treated her for a partial placental abruption, by failing to inform her of the risks and available alternative treatments related to changes in her pregnancy.

Our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have more than 30 years experiments representing plaintiffs in cases involving catastrophic birth injuries.

The case Spangler v. McQuitty et al, marked the second time the Court of Appeals examined the same set of facts. In 2009, the Court of Appeals held in McQuitty I that a patient may bring an informed consent claim in the absence of a battery or affirmative violation of the patient's physicial integrity because a practitioner's duty to inform a patient of material information that the practitioner knows or ought to know would be significant to a reasonable person in the patient's position in deciding whether or not to submit to a particular medical treatment or procedure.

After overturning the trial court's initial grant of judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the Baltimore County Circuit Court to address Dr. Spangler's motion for remittur, which is a motion to reduce damages.

On remand, the trial court rejected Dr. Spangler's request for remittur and post-trial relief. Dr. Spangler appealed, and the Court of Appeals granted a writ of certiorari to hear the case.

Prior to the trial court's decision on Dr. Spangler's motion for remittur, the child unfortunately died.

In last week's decision, the Court of Appeals for the first time addressed the effect of a party's death on a jury verdict for future medical expenses. The jury awarded the child's parents $8,442,515 in future medical expenses, which Dr. Spangler argued the parents stopped incurring after their child died.

The Court ultimately held that while some states like Wisconsin have statutes to address such situations, Maryland does not. Although Maryland does have a statute permitting future economic damages to be annuitized, the trial court exercised its discretion not to grant an annuity award, which was not challenged on appeal.

In the absence of such statute addressing cessation of future medical damages, the Court joined several others states in deciding that "finality is the valued norm." In other words, the Court granted deference to the jury's verdict, which was likely based on a projections based on Plaintiff's life expectancy.

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December 8, 2011

Hospital found liable for botched surgery performed by medical resident

A Michigan jury awarded a woman $2.5 million after she suffered a permanent injury as a result of a resident surgeon's error during a medical procedure.

Our Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have over 30 years' experience representing victims who have suffered as a result of medical providers' negligence.

Surgery was necessary for the woman after she had suffered a miscarriage in which she lost her 14-week-old fetus. As a result, she underwent a dilation and curettage procedure. She alleged in her lawsuit that her OB/GYN informed her that the procedure was routine and that she would be home by lunch.

During the surgery, which was performed by a resident surgeon, the woman's rectum and bowel were torn after her bowel snapped back after the resident grabbed a piece of bowel with ring forceps. Her lawsuit alleged that her doctor never made her aware that the resident performed the surgery.

After the surgery, the woman underwent an ileostomy, which is a procedure to create an opening in the skin to pass intestinal waste. She was also required to carry a bag which collects the waste for a period of three months.

As a result of the injury, she has suffered altered bowel patterns, pain and scarring.

At trial, she and her attorney argued that her OB/GYN failed to properly supervise the resident physician who performed the surgery.

Ultimately, the jury found the hospital that employed the surgeon and the resident liable for $2.5 million.

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November 2, 2011

Anesthesiologist pays $8.2 million for recommending former drug-abusing colleague

A Louisiana anesthesiologist who wrote a glowing recommendation on behalf of a fellow anesthesiologist to a hospital in Washington State, despite knowledge of the doctor's habit of diverting Demerol from his patients, was ordered to pay $8.2 million to pay for the damages that resulted when the doctor and hospital was sued for medical malpractice.

Our Baltimore Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys have more than 30 years representing Plaintiffs who have been injured by medical errors.

According to a Report in Outpatient Surgery Magazine, Louisiana Anesthesia Associates (LAA) terminated Robert Lee Berry, MD, in 2001 over concerns that he had a problem with substance abuse. William J Preau III, MD was also a member of LAA and participated in the decision to terminate Berry. Even after this, however, Dr. Preau wrote a glowing recommendation to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, Washington stating: "[Dr. Berry] is an excellent anesthesiologist. He is capable in all fields of anesthesia including OB, peds, C.V. and all regional blocks. I recommend him highly."

Kadlec Medical Center hired Berry. One year later, Berry was under the influence, failed to properly administer anesthesia to a patient, and the patient fell into a permanent vegetative state. The patient's family sued Dr. Berry and Kadlec medical center. The case was settled with Dr. Berry paying $1 million and the hospital paying $7.5 million.

Feeling misled by Dr. Preau's letter, the hospital sought indemnity - repayment of their settlement and legal fees - by suing Dr. Preau and Louisiana Anesthesia Associates (LAA) for intentional misrepresentation, resulting in a new round of litigation in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The federal jury awarded $8.2 million to Kadlec for damages that resulted from its settlement with the patient and the medical damages, which was apportioned based on the comparative fault of Dr. Preau and Louisiana Anesthesia Associates. On appeal, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the judgment against LAA, because LAA provided only a neutral recommendation (i.e. a response only indicating that the former employee had been on its medical staff and does not vouch for his credentials). Moreover, the person who prepared LAA's letter indicated that she did not know anything about Dr. Berry's termination and other problems, which were kept confidential. See full text of the Appellate Court's Decision.

The end result was that Dr. Preau was left to fulfill the entire $8.2 million judgment to Kadlec. He filed several lawsuits to have his medical malpractice carrier indemnify him, all of which failed. According to the Outpatient Surgery Article, Preau ended up satisfying the judgment in full.

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April 27, 2011

Surgeon operates on wrong eye of four-year-old boy

When four-year-old Jesse Matlock went in for surgery earlier this month in Portland, Oregon, his parents expected the doctor to help correct strabismus in his right eye, which in medical terms is a wandering eye. The surgeon, however, allegedly operated on the wrong eye, realized her mistake and then repeated the procedure on the correct eye - without telling the patient's parents until the procedures were complete.

Our Maryland Injury Attorneys have significant experience represent Plaintiffs who have been injured by medical errors.

The boy's parents were particularly upset that the doctor performed the second operation without informing the parents of her mistake until both procedures were complete. They learned of the issue when a nurse informed them that the doctor was operating on both eyes, without explaining why, the boy's parents said.

The parents allege that the doctor eventually spoke with them and informed them that she lost her sense of direction because the mark she had made on the correct eye was covered up.

While the extent of Matlock's injuries are unclear at this point, his parents have concerns that the unnecessary surgery may affect his sight in the future.

His parents indicate that they may consult an attorney - and they should.


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December 30, 2010

Patients Get Exposed to Excessive Radiation from Stereotactic Radiosurgery

Three Evanston, Illinois patients recently received excessive amounts of radiation from a popular radiation therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery, also called SRS. These accidents have devastating effects on patients, according to a recent NYTimes article. As a result of excessive radiation, one patient is nearly comatose and requires treatment in a nursing home.

Our Annapolis Maryland injury attorneys have experience representing Plaintiffs who have been injured by excessive radiation either by the negligence of medical providers and/or defective medical devices.

SRS is a treatment designed to target tiny tumors affecting the brain or spinal cord, while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.

The NYTimes article reported that SRS systems made by Varian and its German partner Brainlab have figured in scores of accidents. While experts claim that there is nothing inherently wrong with the devices in question, called linear accelerators, most problems are the result of user error and a lack of guidelines for mixing and matching multiple companies' products.

For example, in the Evanston incidence, a mismatch of a cone-shaped attachment to the linear accelerator caused excessive amounts of radiation to spill out of the accelerator.

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Linear accelerators are less expensive than a competing medical device called the Gamma Knife. Linear accelerators are also less regulated.

While SRS is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the Gamma Knife is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, since it uses a radioactive isotope. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is required to publicize incidents regarding radiation.

Not only is the FDA not required to publicize adverse events, the FDA approved the linear accelerators with little review on the grounds that it was an extension of old equipment.

Experts from the American Society for Radiation Oncology are calling for a central database for the reporting of errors involving linear accelerators.

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October 19, 2010

Medical Errors Are Not a Rare Occurrence

Severe medical errors such as amputating the wrong limb or removing the wrong organs are the subject of horror stories, but sadly are not as uncommon as once thought, according to a recent study described in an article titled "Surgery Mix-ups Surprisingly Common".

Although this new study surveyed patient records in Colorado, our Annapolis Maryland medical malpractice attorneys frequently represent clients who have suffered injuries due to medical errors.

In Colorado alone, researchers found that the wrong patient was operated on at least 25 times and the wrong body part was operated on at least 107 times.

The study, an analysis of 27,370 records of errors spanning 6 ½ years maintained by a Colorado medical malpractice insurance company, found that human error is often the source of these medical errors. The company relied on physicians to self-report the errors.

One-third of the mistakes led to long-term negative consequences for patients.

The kicker: Only about 22 percent of the mistakes led to malpractice claims or lawsuits.

The Brassel, Alexander & Rice has personal injury attorneys who represent clients who have been injured by medical errors.

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