On February 2, 2018, IADC members Molly Craig of the Hood Law Firm and Todd W. Smyth of Smyth Whitley, LLC, both of Charleston, SC, obtained a defense verdict on behalf of an inpatient psychiatric facility and a geriatric psychiatrist, respectively, in a medical malpractice case in Conway, SC. The case was tried over the course of a week in the Court of Common Pleas before the Hon. Larry B. Hyman, Jr. The case involved a 76-year-old patient with multiple co-morbidities including advanced dementia who was admitted to the hospital for increased confusion, decreased appetite, fever, and a chronic cough. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and started on antibiotics. However, as the afternoon progressed, the patient became increasingly more agitated, attempted to assault the hospital staff and his family, and then eloped from the hospital. His daughter found him shortly thereafter at a nearby fast food restaurant and was uninjured. However, his physician determined that the hospital was unable to safely care for the patient and committed him to an inpatient psychiatric facility for stabilization. Plaintiff alleged that the care and treatment provided by the doctor and staff at the psychiatric facility was below the standard of care and caused the patient multiple injuries including dehydration, a urinary tract infection, and kidney dysfunction. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the patient was overmedicated, deprived of proper fluids and nutrition, abandoned, and suffered an unreported fall that resulted in a fractured arm. Plaintiff relied primarily on the testimony of the patient’s daughter and their expert psychiatrist, Dr. David Husted of West Palm Beach, FL.
In response, the defense team demonstrated the patient did receive the proper care and treatment for his conditions, was well attended to by the staff, was seen throughout each day of his inpatient hospitalization by multiple staff members and physicians, and that the patient had a long and well-documented history of refusing to eat or drink which was consistent with his diagnosis of advanced dementia. The defense also presented medical records showing that the only documented fall the patient took actually occurred after he left the psychiatric facility and while he was in the hospital. Perhaps the most compelling testimony in the trial came from the patient’s long-time internist who confirmed that the patient had very advanced dementia and had been diagnosed with failure to thrive in the years leading up to this incident; that the patient and his family had been chronically non-compliant with prescribed treatment; and that patient’s decline and claimed injuries were all an expected part of the progression of his advanced dementia. The Defendants’ respective psychiatry experts further supported the treating physician’s testimony and confirmed that the treatment plan, medications and care were all very typical, appropriate and in compliance with the standard of care. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for all Defendants.