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Ruptured appendix nets $1.5M verdict

med-mal_mainA Roanoke jury recently awarded $1.5 million to a Virginia man who suffered a series of injuries as a result of a radiologist’s negligence.

The plaintiff was seen at LewisGale Medical Center’s emergency room complaining of abdominal pains, nausea and vomiting. After an initial CT scan was taken, the man, then 77 years old, was diagnosed with mesenteritis or inflammation of the intestines.

The man returned to the ER two days later, and another CT scan revealed he had appendicitis, and that his appendix had ruptured.

In the surgery that followed, the man suffered intra-abdominal sepsis that led to ventilator dependent respiratory failure, strokes, pulmonary emboli, deep vein thromboses, ischemic kidney insult, and permanent aphasia.

The man would survive and recover, but not before having to make multiple trips back to the hospital to deal with the complications from surgery and the appendicitis. In total the plaintiff racked up $366,000 in medical bills. He later filed a medical malpractice suit in Roanoke Circuit Court against the radiologist and Radiology Associates of Roanoke, the group that employed the doctor, seeking $2.25 million. The defendant’s insurance company had no interest in trying to settle the case, according to Roanoke attorney Anthony Russell, who represented the plaintiff.

Concern for appendicitis

The radiologist testified at trial that he did have a concern that the plaintiff had appendicitis, but he didn’t feel the need to report it. The scan didn’t appear to reveal any serious complications.

Russell questioned why the radiologist wouldn’t note any concern he had.

“If you have a concern for appendicitis, why didn’t you put it in the report?” he asked.

Rarity defense

The second time the plaintiff reported to the ER, it was revealed that his appendix and cecum were in the upper right quadrant of his abdomen, where most people’s appendixes are in the right lower quadrant.

This, coupled with the summation that the plaintiff’s appendicitis was caused by a colonoscopy, formed the defense’s argument at trial.

Defense experts testified that due to the plaintiff’s age and history, he was likely to experience similar health complications like the ones he experienced in surgery. The plaintiff had hypertension, was a smoker, and allegedly had prostate cancer that had come back.

The radiologist testified that he supported what he reported, and that he wouldn’t do anything differently. He also believed that the plaintiff’s complications were only mild.

“The radiologist standing behind his reporting was the scariest thing,” Russell said. “And the argument that his complications were only mild really belittled the severity of my client’s condition. He just didn’t seem to understand that his problems were significant”

The jury ultimately couldn’t be swayed in favor of the defense. They deliberated for three hours before returning the $1.5 million verdict in favor of Russell and his client.

The radiologist was represented by John Jessee of Roanoke, and Radiology Associates of Roanoke was represented by Nick Leitch of Roanoke.

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