Morrison Mahoney Partner Brent Tingle and Associate Lori Vaulding obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful death case after a five-day trial in Worcester Superior Court. The decedent was a 53-year-old man who suffered a bowel perforation from diverticulitis that led to sepsis and ultimately death after a lengthy hospitalization. The plaintiff alleged that our client, the primary care physician, missed signs and symptoms of this condition during an office visit three days before the plaintiff presented to the emergency room.
Our client had diagnosed the patient with a urinary tract infection based upon his symptoms and a urinalysis performed in the office. In reality, these urinary symptoms were caused by the perforation which had occurred close to the bladder and eroded into the bladder wall. The defense was complicated by the fact that our client claimed to have taken a full set of vital signs at the visit but failed to record the blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the heart rate likely would have been elevated if it had been checked and should have prompted further workup including labs and imaging.
The defense argued that this was a very unusual presentation for a diverticular perforation. The defendant and the defense expert had more than 50 years of combined experience as primary care physicians and neither had encountered a case like this one before. We were also able to establish that the plaintiff did not follow our client’s instructions and waited far too long before going to the emergency room when his condition worsened. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before returning a verdict for the defendant