Stroke Misdiagnosis Medical Malpractice Verdict in Baltimore County

Last week, a Baltimore County jury awarded a $2.3 million jury verdict in a stroke misdiagnosis medical malpractice suit in Towson.

The trial before Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Dana M. Levitz took six days and the jury deliberated for seven hours before returning a verdict, according to Plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawyer.

Facts

malpractice8In this case, a man went to his doctor of 30 years complaining of headaches, vision problems and loss of balance. His doctor wrote down the letters “TIA” in the man’s medical records, which Plaintiffs’ attorney contended meant that he had properly diagnosed the man with a transient ischemic attack, which can portend a stroke. Plaintiffs’ attorney argued that the doctor should have known that Plaintiff was a prime candidate for stroke and treated him with greater urgency. Instead, the doctor ordered a CT scan on September 5. The next day, the Plaintiff had a massive vestibular stroke. Today, Plaintiff has lost much of his ability to speak and to walk. (Last week, I wrote a blog post about these types of cases.)

The Plaintiffs allege that the Defendant deviated from the standard of care by failing to refer the patient for an urgent workup and further evaluation despite identifying TIA as a potential cause of the patient’s symptoms on September 3, 2003.  Plaintiffs also argued that this man had a history of heart disease which should have put the doctor on notice that with these symptoms, a coming stroke needed to be ruled out.

Plaintiffs’ malpractice lawyers retained an expert neurologist who contended that there were departures from the standard of care, including the failure to institute urgent evaluation for TIA and the failure to begin treatment for TIA which resulted in the stroke that this man suffered.  The expert also believed that if the doctor had met the standard fo care, it would have prevented this man’s stroke.

For his part, the doctor denied he did anything wrong.  The doctor claimed he properly evaluated the patient’s condition and ordered a CT scan, which was an appropriate diagnostic study to assess his condition. He argued that CT scan did not reveal any ischemic changes consistent with a cerebrovascular accident and the signs and symptoms of the man’s basilar artery stroke did not appear until later.

Failure to Treat TIA

A TIA is a transient ischemic attack. A TIA is often called a “mini-stroke.” It means there is a blockage of a vessel.  The primary difference between a stroke and a TIA is simply that a TIA is temporary and does not usually result in long-term damage.

A TIA is an urgent neurologic situation. Rapid management is needed to prevent a stroke that can cause permanent neurological injuries.  The greatest risk of permanent stroke following TIA is within the first six weeks after the TIA.  The standard of care requires antiplatelet or anticoagulation therapy.  The most common clinical features included vertigo (57%), unilateral facial paresthesia (46%), cerebellar signs (33%), lateral medullary signs (26%) and visual field defects (15%).  The vision disturbances, headaches, and loss of balance were signs and symptoms of a man at risk for a stroke who is having a TIA.

Defendant’s Malpractice Lawyer Talks to Press

A. Gwynn Bowie, Jr., a medical malpractice lawyer who represented the doctor accused of medical malpractice was quoted by the Daily Record as saying his client was “blameless. ” “I guess what I would say with respect to this verdict is, if not a result of pure sympathy, there is no rational explanation of the verdict,” the attorney said. “It is, in my opinion, completely unsupported by the facts and the record and it is a slap in the face of a good doctor who worked hard for 25 years to help keep a severely medically compromised patient alive. ”

Well, Mr. Bowie, the jury did not quite see it that way. Interestingly, although this was not reflected in the article, I’m told the jury awarded only $600,000 in pain and suffering and the rest in past and future medical bills and lost wages. It makes you wonder whether the jury gave an award approximating the Maryland cap on pain and suffering because it knew of the cap. With all of the talk of tort reform in the news of late, more and more juries know what they are not told by the judge or the lawyers during the trial such as the availability of insurance and the existence of a cap on non-economic damages in Maryland

Recent TIA/Stroke Misdiagnosis Lawsuits Filed in Maryland

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