$5.9M Verdict for Fatal Bowel Perforation
Short-staffed hospital faulted for missed diagnosis.
Published: November 29, 2012
An Arizona hospital argued that the physicians who failed to diagnose a fatal bowel perforation were not its employees, but a jury found it partially at fault in a $5,875,000 verdict it awarded to the patient's family.
Cortney Anne Connolly, 32 and a longtime Crohn's disease sufferer, sought emergency treatment for severe abdominal pain at a Glendale, Ariz., hospital in March 2008. Two days later, she presented at Maryvale Hospital in Phoenix whose emergency department was closer to her home than the Glendale hospital's with recurring pain and bloody stools.
Maryvale only had 1 surgeon on call when she arrived, according to the ensuing lawsuit filed by husband Jonathan Connolly. In addition, the CT technician was absent due to illness and the hospital had no on-call system for its techs. As a result, it took 10 hours, a shift change of physicians and critical miscommunications before Ms. Connolly was able to undergo a CT scan. She died 2 days later.
Mr. Connolly sued the ownership of Maryvale and several physicians involved in the case on behalf of himself, his 2 children and Ms. Connolly's parents. The failure to diagnose and treat the bowel perforation in time to prevent Ms. Connolly's death constituted sub-standard care and medical malpractice, the lawsuit argued.
Maryvale countered that it was not liable for damages, since the physician-defendants were not acting as its agents, but settled before the case went to trial. So did Daniel J. Para, MD, the surgeon who'd agreed to be on call for the entire hospital, and who was hindered by the lack of CT scans; and Nabil T. Khoury, MD, an in-house physician who'd examined Ms. Connolly during rounds later in the day.
Only the lawsuit's claims against Michael D. Beck, MD, the emergency department physician who examined Ms. Connolly when she arrived and ordered immediate CT scans, reached a jury trial. But the jury found Dr. Beck just 5% at fault in the case. In its verdict, it assigned 40% of the fault to Dr. Para, 30% to Maryvale and 25% to Dr. Khoury.
The Aug. 29, 2012, verdict totaled $5,875,000, but because the defendants cited for 95% of the liability settled for confidential amounts before or during the trial, the amount the Connolly family will receive from the verdict is limited to the 5% assigned to Dr. Beck, an award Dr. Beck's attorney says he will likely appeal.
Attorneys for Maryvale did not respond to a request for comment.
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