Morrison Mahoney Partners Brent Tingle and Tony Abeln recently obtained a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case after a one-week jury trial in Worcester Superior Court. This was a sympathetic case involving the sudden death of a 40-year old man in front of his family while on a family vacation in New York City. The autopsy showed severe coronary artery disease in one of the main vessels in the heart, as well as evidence of an acute heart attack.
The plaintiff alleged that our client, a primary care doctor, failed to properly manage the patient’s cardiac risk factors and also failed to refer him to a cardiologist for stress testing when he complained of abdominal/ left rib pain at an office visit. The defense argued that this was a tragic but totally unpredictable event. We called two preeminent medical experts (primary care and cardiology) who testified that our client’s care was entirely appropriate and that the patient repeatedly failed to have his cholesterol rechecked after learning that it was high. Further, he resumed light smoking habits even after he knew his cholesterol was elevated. The patient exercised regularly and never complained of any symptoms with exertion. Our cardiology expert testified that the patient never met criteria for stress testing and that his abdominal pain was not cardiac in nature. Further, our cardiology expert testified that stenting of the partially blocked artery was unlikely to have prevented this fatal heart attack.
The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days before returning a verdict in favor of the defendant. The deliberations were apparently contentious due to several jurors who were extremely sympathetic to the family.