jury awards 17 million in damages in misdiagnosis case

The family of a man who died as the result of medical malpractice has been awarded $1.7 million in damages. The man was 42 years old when he went to a clinic complaining of chest pain. After an examination, a physician at the clinic determined the man’s pain was the result of a simple torn muscle. As it turned out, the man actually suffered from a life-threatening heart condition, commonly referred to as a “leaky valve.”

Within a year after the misdiagnosis, the man died from the very condition the doctor failed to detect.

The man’s widow and four children sued the doctor and the clinic for medical malpractice. They argued to the court that the man’s life could have been saved by the surgical replacement of his faulty heart valve, a common treatment for leaky valve syndrome. This procedure could have given him not only his life, but many healthy years in which to watch his children grow up. The doctor’s negligent misdiagnosis meant that he and his family were denied that chance.

At the trial, the family successfully proved that the doctor failed to provide the minimum standard of care. They were able to demonstrate to the jury that the doctor failed to properly monitor the man for the heart valve condition, and that the doctor should have referred the man to a heart specialist after the man described a symptom, chest pain, so readily associated with heart problems.

The jury awarded $1.6 million in damages for lost wages and $120,000 for the children’s college education, almost exactly what the family requested.

Medical malpractice cases in the news frequently focus on negligent actions by healthcare providers, but Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys point out that misdiagnosis cases like this one are prime examples that the failure to act appropriately may also be considered negligent.

Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnoses can result in a failure to provide desperately needed care. In this case, that negligent inaction proved to be just as deadly as any overt action could have been.

Source: Billings Gazette “$1.7 million verdict returned against Billings Clinic, physician in medical negligence case” 2/21/2011

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