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Defense verdict reached in suit against emergency physician

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//March 13, 2023

Defense verdict reached in suit against emergency physician

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//March 13, 2023

Type of action: Medical malpractice

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death

Court: Newport News Circuit Court

Case no.: CL 18-775T-01

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge or mediator: Judge Tyneka Flythe

Date resolved: 10/7/2022


Demand: $4,000,000

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $0 (defense)

Attorneys for defendant (and city): Donna L. Foster and Walker Terry, Richmond

Description of case: The decedent, age 79, presented to her PCP’s office on June 10, 2016, with a complaint of back pain. After completing her evaluation and work-up the PCP referred the decedent, who had a known thoracic aortic aneurysm that was first diagnosed in 2010, to the ED to have a CT scan performed that day to rule out an aortic dissection. The defendant emergency physician evaluated the decedent and reviewed the results of the CT scan which indicated that there was no significant change in the size of the aneurysm, as compared to a CT scan performed in June 2015, and no evidence of leak or dissection. The defendant emergency physician then spoke with the on-call physician with the decedent’s treating vascular surgeon’s practice, who did not recommend any further immediate treatment, after being read the results of the CT scan. The emergency physician then discharged the decedent with instructions to follow-up with her vascular surgeon the next week.


On June 18, 2016, the decedent returned to the ED with similar complaints of pain. The defendant emergency physician happened to be working in the ED and was therefore familiar with the decedent’s history. In addition to ordering a cardiac work-up, he ordered a second CT scan for PE protocol to rule out pulmonary embolism (PE). This second CT ruled out a PE, and reported that the aneurysm had not changed from the prior study and that there was no evidence of an aortic dissection, rupture or leak. Still unsure of the cause of the decedent’s symptoms, the defendant emergency physician consulted with the hospitalist, to discuss admitting the decedent for further work-up and evaluation. The hospitalist agreed and the decedent was admitted to the hospital.

On June 20, 2016, the decedent’s symptoms changed, so a third CT was ordered and performed. This time the CT showed evidence of a leak and the interpreting radiologist immediately notified the attending hospitalist. The decedent died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm during an attempted transport to another facility for possible surgery.

The plaintiff claimed that the emergency room physician failed to recognize the aneurysm as symptomatic and consult a vascular surgeon during the decedent’s second visit to the ED. The plaintiff further claimed that the emergency physician failed to transfer the decedent immediately to another facility where reparative surgery could be performed on site and that the CT ordered for evaluation of PE did not allow the interpreting radiologist to accurately assess the aneurysm. The trial lasted two weeks, with multiple medical experts testifying for both sides. At the conclusion of trial, the jury deliberated for about four hours before returning a verdict in favor of the defendant emergency room physician and his medical group.

Defendant’s attorney Donna L. Foster provided case information.


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