On March 11, 2015, after five days of trial and two days of jury deliberations, a Philadelphia medical malpractice jury found a local hospital responsible for a man’s permanent paralysis following his discharge from its Emergency Department in 2010.
The man was a heroin addict when he went to the defendant hospital’s emergency room in November 2010 with complaints of severe back pain and an addiction to heroin, along with fever and nausea. The emergency department personnel administered narcotic medication to the man and conducted medical testing, which included an EKG, x-rays, and blood work that indicated that the man had an infection. The man was discharged from the hospital emergency room with a prescription for additional narcotic medications for his back pain, before the final results of blood cultures were available, which showed that the man had a systemic infection that needed prompt treatment.
The defendant hospital tried to contact the man by telephone but was unable to do so. The defendant hospital elected to send the man a letter by certified mail to his address stated in his chart but the man woke up paralyzed from the chest down before the letter had a chance to arrive.
The defendant hospital defended its attempts to contact the man about his serious medical condition that required prompt medical attention by contending that the man was responsible for his own injury due to his heroin addiction. The defendant hospital further defended against the man’s medical malpractice claim by alleging that its attempted telephone calls and certified letter to the man were sufficient to comply with the applicable standard of care, despite the defendant hospital’s own policy that required that the police be contacted under the circumstances.
The Philadelphia medical malpractice jury determined that the emergency room physician who treated the man was not responsible for his injuries but did find the defendant hospital 64% responsible for the man’s permanent and severe injury because it had failed to follow its own policies in place to protect patients who had abnormal medical test results.
The plaintiff was fortunate that the Philadelphia medical malpractice jury sided with him inasmuch as his medical malpractice lawyer had to contend with possible jury bias against a heroin addict, which the defense focused on to attempt to shift blame to the plaintiff for his own injuries. The extent to which individual jurors were influenced by the heroin-addiction issue is unknown but fortunately for the plaintiff, the Philadelphia medical malpractice jury was convinced by the testimony and evidence produced at trial that the defendant hospital’s failure to take adequate steps to timely notify the plaintiff to return promptly to the hospital for proper medical treatment was a substantial cause of his permanent paralysis.
If you or a family member may have suffered injury or other substantial harm as a result of medical negligence in Philadelphia, you should promptly consult with a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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