A $3 million settlement was reached in a medical malpractice lawsuit after ER doctors misdiagnosed a 65 year-old man’s bowel perforation, which led to sepsis and prolonged hospitalization.
The 65 year-old man presented to the emergency room with fractures to his clavicle and a “seatbelt sign” after being involved in a single-car accident. He also had mild left lower quadrant tenderness on palpation and decreased bowel sounds. He received medication for severe shoulder pain and an ultrasound of his abdomen came back negative.
After observation and reexamination, the defendant ER physicians decided that the man’s abdominal tenderness had localized over the bony prominence of his hip. Because his vital signs were stable, the hospital released the man, with instructions for him to follow up on his orthopedic injuries and return if his condition worsened. No abdominal CT scan or surgical consultation was ordered.
Two days after his discharge from the hospital, the plaintiff followed up with the third defendant, a nurse practitioner. He was then complaining of fatigue, lower abdominal bruising, loss of appetite and an inability to move his bowels since the injury. The nurse practitioner, however, did not send the plaintiff for immediate evaluation of his abdominal complaints.
Three days later, the plaintiff returned to the ER yet again with a distended, acute abdomen that required surgery. In the operating room, doctors discovered a large amount of fecal spillage into his abdominal cavity and a nearly transected sigmoid colon. As a result, the plaintiff endured a prolonged hospital stay, rehabilitation and multiple surgeries over the course of almost a year.
The defendant physicians settled the case for $3 million before the case went to trial.
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