The Washington Post is reporting that a jury has awarded the family of a medical malpractice victim nearly $3 million. The victim was a man who died after his esophagus tore while he was swallowing a piece of steak. The medical malpractice jury found that the radiologist was liable for misdiagnosing the man’s condition as a hiatal hernia. The state’s medical malpractice cap will require the jury’s award of $2,933,500 to be cut by more than half. This puts the ending jury verdict at $1.25 million. The anesthesiology group also agreed to pay a settlement of $600,000.
The victim had entered the hospital complaining of chest pains and trouble swallowing after he had eaten the steak. When he entered the hospital he stated that the piece of meat went down the wrong way. In reality, the piece of meat had gotten stuck in this throat. At the hospital he was given a number of tests which included an EKG, an X-Ray and a CT scan. The computer stated that the victim had a “large hiatal hernia” and doctors treated him with oral medicine. However, his pain did not decrease. Doctors continued to try to diagnose his chest pain. Finally, after a day of searching a surgeon found the victim’s perforated esophagus. He was immediately prepared for surgery and an epidural catheter was inserted. Court documents show that after the catheter was inserted the victim went into cardiac arrest. He had been severely weakened by the perforated esophagus which caused his cardiac arrest. The man died less than two weeks after his surgery.
This case highlights two aspects of medical malpractice law. First, it is yet another example of the 98,000 people who die annually as a result of medical malpractice. Second, it shows that medical malpractice caps are quite misleading. The jury was never told about the state legislation and hoped that the victim’s family would be justly awarded nearly $3 million in compensatory damages. However, the family was impacted by an unconstitutional state malpractice law. To read more about this specific case, please click the link.