On July 31, 2018, a Massachusetts appellate court upheld a $32.5 million Massachusetts medical malpractice judgment against a physician who failed to document her patient’s incidental medical condition in her medical record. As a result of the negligent failure to document the condition in the patient’s medical record, the patient suffered a rupture of a venous varix in her brain while deliverng her baby four years later, resulting in severe, permanent injuries.
The Massachusetts appellate court’s opinion set forth the following facts:
Andrea Larkin, a former elementary school teacher, exercise class instructor, and marathon runner, complained of persistent dizziness beginning in 2004. She underwent a magnetic resonance imaging procedure at Massachusetts General Hospital (“MGH”), which revealed a venous varix in her brain that was determined not to be a cause of her dizziness symptoms. A venous varix is essentially an aneurysm (a weakening and a dilation of a blood vessel), but on the venous side.
Andrea’s primary care doctor, Jehane Johnston, an employee of Dedham Medical Associates (“DMA”), was copied on the MGH report, but failed to note the venous varix on Andrea’s “problem list,” which is designed to alert a patient’s various treating physicians to her medical conditions. As a result, when Andrea became pregnant in 2007, her obstetricians were not informed about her venous abnormality and Andrea was not informed that this condition posed a particular risk of the venous varix rupturing during vaginal labor using the Valsalva maneuver or that an elective Caesarian section would avoid placing additional stress on the veins in her head and neck.
Andrea delivered her daughter vaginally using the Valsalva maneuver in June of 2008. Twelve hours after Andrea delivered her baby, she experienced a sudden, very painful headache, which accompanied a rupture of the venous varix in her brain. After having emergency surgery to remove a part of her skull and falling into a month-long coma, Andrea awoke to find that her legs and left hand were paralyzed, her trunk muscles were impaired, and that she had difficulty chewing, swallowing, and speaking.
Despite having physical therapy twice per week, the occasional occupational, water, and speech therapies, and a battery of daily medications, Andrea’s injuries are permanent. She requires care around the clock and likely will for the duration of her lifetime.
The Massachusetts medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding damages in the sum of $35.4 million, which a judge of the Massachusetts Superior Court later reduced to approximately $32.5 million on the motion of one of the defendants. The defendants then filed an appeal.
Following its analysis and rejection of the defendants’ arguments on appeal, the Massachusetts appellate court affirmed the Massachusetts medical malpractice judgment.
Source Timothy Larkin vs. Dedham Medical Associates, Inc., No. 17-P-960.
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