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Inattention to medical test leads to $3 million verdict

Incalculable acts of negligence can lead to a fatality and a wrongful death action in Connecticut. One example recently occurred where a jury in Hartford awarded $3 million to a Torrington man's estate and his widow for medical malpractice because insufficient attention was paid to his test results.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the decedent was 67-years-old at the time of his death in May 2009 and suffered a heart condition, aortic stenosis, which caused the narrowing of his aortic valve. The decedent's general physician, named in the lawsuit but not a defendant, ordered an echocardiogram. Another doctor interpreted these results and found that the aorta stenosis appeared more severe in the ultrasound images than the measurements indicated.

The general practitioner referred the patient to the defendant cardiologist. A test that he ordered in January 2008 showed a reduction in heart function but showed no defects. The cardiologist, however, did not look at the echocardiogram images and sent the decedent back to his general practitioner for treatment. He only suggested that the patient take medication.

Over a year later, the patient suffered breathing problems, leg edema and other difficulties. Another echocardiogram showed worsening of aortic stenosis. He was later admitted into a hospital where physicians inserted a balloon into the valve to widen it. Replacement surgery or the seriously narrowed valve was considered too risky, according to the lawsuit, and the patient died.

The plaintiffs claimed that both doctors should have ordered a new echocardiogram after the first test in January 2008 and admitted the patient into the hospital at that time. The jury found that the defendant cardiologist was 40 percent liable and ordered to pay $1.2 million.

Although the general practitioner was no longer a defendant, the jury held him liable for the remaining 60 percent. He admitted liability during his testimony in his case. It was not reported whether the general practitioner settled out of court.

Wrongful death actions may involve separate defendants with different degrees of liability and expert testimony is often required. Prompt legal advice may assist families who lose a loved one to seek fair and just compensation.

Source: Hartford Courant, "Jury awards $3 million in medical malpractice case," Christine Dempsey, June 26, 2015

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James L. O’Rourke, ESQ
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