Multiple Medical Errors Lead to College Student’s Death

“I feel much worse than I did when I came in 2 days ago,” she told the physician she saw this day. Unbeknownst to Ms J, it was the physician’s first day at the clinic, and he did not yet have access to the computer system, so he had to rely on Ms J’s complaints rather than the medical records. Ms J reported that she now had sharp chest pain and shortness of breath with any activity. The physician, Dr W, ordered bloodwork which showed elevated white blood cells, diagnosed Ms J with leukocytosis and dyspnea, and prescribed an inhaler.

The following morning, Ms J collapsed and died of a massive pulmonary embolism.

Her heartbroken family couldn’t understand how this had happened and hired a plaintiff’s attorney who subpoenaed all of the medical records and had them reviewed by medical experts.

Legal Background

After a review of the records and a discussion with the experts who reviewed them, the attorney told the family that they had a case, and he filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the gynecologist and her practice, the urgent care clinic, and the 2 physicians who treated Ms J at the clinic. 

A week before the case went to trial, the gynecologist and her practice settled out of court for a confidential amount. However, the case still moved forward to trial with the remaining defendants – the 2 physicians and the clinic they worked for.

At trial, the defense argued that the clinic’s physicians had responded reasonably to the symptoms that Ms J exhibited, and that they had no way to know that Ms J had a predisposition for blood clots. Instead, they placed the blame on the gynecologist for misreading the test results and entering the wrong information.

The plaintiff argued that the clinic’s doctors were negligent in failing to consider a pulmonary embolism. The first physician was aware that Ms J was on hormonal birth control, while the second physician never bothered to ask.

A medical expert for the plaintiff testified that when Ms J was seen the second time at the clinic, her condition was critical, and an ambulance should have been called to take her to a hospital. Instead, a doctor on his first day of work and without access to the electronic records of the patient prescribed an inhaler and sent her home.

The jury deliberated for about an hour and a half before returning with a verdict of 9 million dollars for the family of Ms. J.