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Obtaining a Just Award for a Surgical Patient

Hyatt & Weber’s Medical Malpractice team represented a client who was initially admitted to a hospital for exploratory surgery that resulted in a lysis of adhesions. She remained hospitalized for 31 days with periodic vomiting and the inability to eat. During the last three days of the hospital admission, she began projectile vomiting of bile and developed a fever and rapid heartbeat.

A family member, concerned about the patient’s deterioration and unable to obtain an explanation as to the patient’s condition, removed the patient from the hospital and drove her to another institution.

At the second hospital, the patient was found to be septic. Blood cultures revealed that the patient had a fungemia that was treated with antifungal medication. In addition, the patient was found to have hypertension, respiratory distress syndrome and organ failure that caused ischemia. The only symptoms reported with regard to the patient’s sight were floaters. An ophthalmic exam revealed the existence of those floaters with pallor of the optic nerve.
One month after discharge from the second hospital, the patient reported a large number of thickened floaters and some decreased vision. The patient was referred to a neuro ophthalmologist who diagnosed the patient with non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a rare condition caused by reduced blood flow to the optic nerve.

On behalf of the patient, our attorneys were able to secure medical testimony that the supervising physician at the initial hospital allowed the patient to deteriorate and to become septic, which caused hypertension, and suffer respiratory distress that led to ischemia. This ischemia caused the lack of blood flow to the optic nerve, which in turn resulted in the gradual loss of vision in one eye.

The policy of insurance covering the physician was an eroding policy, which means the limits of coverage are eroded by the costs of the defense of any claim.  At mediation, the parties were able to resolve the claim on behalf of the patient for a sum that was equal to the remaining coverage available.