On August 29, 2012, an Arizona medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $5.875 million in favor of the surviving family of a woman who died as a result of the late diagnosis of her bowel perforation. The woman had chronic Crohn’s disease (a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) usually affecting the intestines but which may occur anywhere from the mouth to the end of the rectum) when she sought emergency room treatment at a local Arizona hospital for severe abdominal pain during March 2008. Two days later, she went to the emergency room of another local hospital that was closer to her home, due to continuing pain and bloody stools.
Choosing to go to the closer hospital turned out to be a fatal mistake. That hospital had only one surgeon on call at the time the woman arrived in the emergency room. Additionally, the hospital’s CT scanner technician was out sick and there was no one on-call to perform a CT scan. By the time the woman was able to have a CT scan 10 hours later, there had been a physician shift change leading to miscommunications that resulted in delays in diagnosis and treatment. The woman died two days later as a result of a perforated bowel.
The surviving family’s medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that it was medical malpractice to fail to timely diagnosis and treat the woman’s bowel perforation and that the delay was the cause of her death. The hospital that was a named medical malpractice defendant in the case alleged that it was not responsible because the medical malpractice defendant physicians were independent contractors and not acting as agents of the hospital in their care of the woman. Nonetheless, the hospital settled the medical malpractice claims against it before trial.
The on-call surgeon also settled with the medical malpractice plaintiffs before trial even though he claimed that the lack of timely CT scans compromised his ability to treat the woman. Another named medical malpractice defendant physician who examined the woman in the hospital later that day also settled the medical malpractice claims against him.
By the time the medical malpractice case went before the jury, only the emergency room physician remained as a medical malpractice defendant. The jury determined that the emergency room physician was 5% at fault, the hospital was 30% at fault, the on-call surgeon was 40% at fault, and the physician who had examined the woman in the hospital later in the day was 25% at fault.
Even though the emergency room physician was determined by the medical malpractice jury to be only 5% at fault and therefore he is responsible for only 5% of the amount of the verdict, his attorney has vowed to appeal the verdict.
If you may be the victim of medical malpractice in Arizona or in another state in the United States, you should promptly contact an Arizona medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may be able to investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and file a medical malpractice case on your behalf, if appropriate.
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