Notable Case: Medical Malpractice

Some years ago, we represented a grandfather who suffered a stoke and a heart attack while undergoing an ablation procedure for Atrial fibrillation, a heart condition where abnormal electrical activity of the heart causes the heart muscle to quiver, placing the patient at risk for stroke.

The medical record did not clearly state the cause of the stroke or heart attack and our experts were left to speculate on the reason. We filed suit and learned through depositions of people who were in the cardiac ablation laboratory on that day that a nurse in training, who was new to cardiac ablation procedures, had been assigned the task of setting up an IV bag at the head of the operating table. The nurse in training failed to include a transducer on the IV line, which would have controlled the flow of IV solution. Without the transducer, the IV solution ran out uncontrollably and quickly, resulting in air getting into the patient’s circulatory system and causing the heart attack and stroke.

A supervising nurse was supposed to mentor the nurse and oversee her work, but was herself pregnant and positioned behind a lead shield at the foot of the bed to protect herself from radiation; the supervising nurse couldn’t see how the trainee had set up the IV apparatus. The interventional cardiologist was positioned next to the patient in the middle of the operating table and paid no attention to what the trainee was doing.

The doctor and the supervising nurse blamed the trainee with not knowing a basic procedure (including a transducer on the IV line), but the trainee denied this was a common set up that she should have known. Over time the patient recovered significantly from the stroke and heart attack. The compensation we obtained for him and his wife helped them in retirement, but most important, we provided them with answers on what had gone wrong and why.

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