A. Edwin Stuardi, III and Russell C. Buffkin Obtain Defense Verdict for Local Hospital

August 30, 2016 01:02 PM

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IADC members A. Edwin Stuardi, III and Russell C. Buffkin of Helmsing, Leach, Herlong, Newman & Rouse, P.C., along with a non-IADC member Philip H. Partridge, obtained a defense verdict in favor of a local hospital in Baldwin County, Alabama before the Honorable Langford Floyd.

The case involved an eighty-one year old female who presented to the emergency room with severe headaches and high blood pressure. The ER physician ordered a brain CT, which revealed an aneurysm. The patient was admitted to the hospital and her care was coordinated by a hospitalist, who had been assigned by the hospital as her attending physician. The hospitalist ordered additional tests, including an MRI and MRA of the brain, in order to rule out a possible active bleed of the aneurysm. The hospitalist also ordered a consult with a neurologist. The MRI and MRA images were interpreted as showing no evidence of active bleeding. The patient was discharged from the hospital with an appointment to see a neurosurgeon ten days later for evaluation of the aneurysm. Two days after the patient was discharged, she suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage (i.e., bleed) from the ruptured aneurysm. She died six days later.

The Plaintiff, who was the spouse and personal representative of the decedent’s estate, filed a wrongful death action claiming that the care provided by the ER physician, hospitalist, neurologist, and radiologists breached the standard of care. Prior to trial, summary judgment was granted as to the claims centered on the care of the neurologist and radiologists. Claims involving the ER physician were dismissed shortly before the trial began. The case proceeded to trial only against the hospital on the theory that the hospitalist was its agent, and that he breached the standard of care by admitting the patient to a hospital that did not offer neurosurgical services rather than transferring her to a nearby hospital that did. The Plaintiff contended that the medical records and radiographic images from her hospitalization showed an active aneurysmal bleed requiring immediate transfer. The Plaintiff also asserted that the aneurysm was symptomatic, and criticized the physician for failing to order a lumbar puncture to definitely rule out a possible bleed.

On the seventh day of trial, the jury received the case. After approximately two and a half hours of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the hospital. 

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