Sometimes a defendant doctor will argue that the patient’s condition was so severe and critical that nothing could have been done realistically to save that patient. The argument will have to survive the scrutiny of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses in order to do the defendant any good. Ultimately, where the parties don’t settle, the decision regarding whether the patient’s condition was hopeless will be decided by the jury pursuant to California law. If the jury believes the plaintiff’s evidence, it will reject the defendant’s argument that nothing could be done and will conclude that medical malpractice occurred.
In a case in another state, a doctor and the hospital where he practices settled a wrongful death case for $925,000 prior to going to trial. The suit was brought by the deceased man’s surviving wife. The suit claimed that the doctor and the hospital took too long to perform a CT scan when the 51-year-old man went there with severe back pain in 2010.
The man had to wait for two hours for the CT scan, even though he showed signs of what is called aortic dissection, which is essentially a tear in the large blood vessel leading off from the heart. Quick and decisive action is required in such situations, but it appears uncontested that the doctor and hospital did not act quickly under the circumstances. While paying the settlement amount, the hospital and doctor continued to assert that they acted reasonably.
The defendants asserted that the patient’s condition was so severe that any delay could not have possibly made a difference. Both the defendants and plaintiff appeared to believe that closure was preferred at that point rather than taking the medical malpractice issue down to the wire. A verdict that would compensate for the man’s lost earning capacity under these facts could have been over two million. That fact indicates a compromise settlement in which each party was unsure of what a jury verdict would bring. The same considerations and ultimate outcome could have reasonably occurred in California under these facts.
Source: cookcountyrecord.com, “Jury awards $925K to family of man who suffered aortic dissection; state med society says reform needed“, Taryn Phaneuf, July 28, 2016