23 year old US Navy veteran from Pittsburgh began college in Indiana County. The plaintiff went to the college infirmary complaining of acute stomach pain. The college infirmary referred him to the local emergency room for an evaluation. He was given a “GI Cocktail” to see if it settled his stomach. He had some relief and was discharged. He went home for the weekend and within 24 hours ended up in another emergency room with a ruptured appendix. He suffered an infection, required two more surgeries and a skin graft, missed two semesters of college and was unable to work for six months. The national standard of care for emergency room physicians required an abdominal x-ray for a sudden onset of severe, right lower abdominal pain.
The x-ray would have shown the acute appendix and surgery would have been performed before the rupture and with fewer risks of complications. The Emergency Department physician wrote in his hospital notes that he did not order an x-ray because the college student did not have insurance and could not afford one. In fact, Plaintiff did have full health insurance and the x-ray was never offered as a treatment option.
The case settled immediately prior to trial.