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Anesthesiologist not liable for fainting patient’s injuries — Defense verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 19, 2022

Anesthesiologist not liable for fainting patient’s injuries — Defense verdict

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 19, 2022

Type of action: Medical malpractice

Injuries alleged: Permanent neck injury, facial fractures and associated physical limitation after passing out and falling from exam table

Court: Prince William County Circuit Court

Case no.: CL 19-9592

Name of judge or mediator: Judge Robert P. Coleman

Date resolved: 8/26/2022

Special damages: $105,248 in past and future medical bills

Demand: $2,300,000

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $0 (defense)

Attorneys for defendant (and city): Byron Mitchell and Lynne Kemp, Alexandria

Description of case: Plaintiff Sharon Harvey, age 49, presented to an endoscopy center on Jan. 19, 2018, for an EGD. As the defendant anesthesiologist did her pre-procedure anesthesia exam, Harvey claimed she told the anesthesiologist that she passes out at the sight of IVs, needles and blood and, in fact, “turns a funny shade of green” before doing so. The defendant denied Harvey said this. The anesthesiologist asked Harvey if she preferred to remain seated in her chair or lay on the exam table for the IV placement. Harvey opted to lay on the exam table, which was in a recumbent position. The anesthesiologist placed the IV in her right arm without incident. The anesthesiologist remained in the exam room for several minutes observing Harvey and speaking with her as she completed her paperwork. Harvey had no complaints and exhibited no ill effects from the IV. The defendant then left the exam room to get ready for the EGD. Several minutes later, Harvey fell from the exam table, fracturing her face and injuring her neck. She claims she passed out from the IV and fell to the floor. She was taken to the ER that same day. Soon thereafter, the plaintiff underwent surgery for her facial fractures and two level C-spine fusion surgery. The plaintiff sued the anesthesiologist, alleging she failed to keep her safe after IV placement. Plaintiff’s anesthesiology expert testified that the defendant breached the standard of care by not monitoring Harvey sufficiently or taking steps to protect her in the event she fainted after IV placement. Plaintiff’s treating spine surgeon testified that the fall caused Harvey’s neck injury requiring fusion surgery and resulting in ongoing neck pain. Defense experts testified that the defendant acted reasonably by placing the IV without incident and by watching Harvey for several minutes afterward to ensure she had tolerated it well. After four days of evidence, the jury deliberated for about five hours before finding for the defendant.

Byron Mitchell, defense counsel, provided case information.


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