2661 Case Study: Failure to Perform Cardiac Work-up in ER | Harry S. Cohen & Associates

Failure to Perform Cardiac Work-up in ER

Filed under Emergency Room

The Fairbanks Case

In this case, we represented the Estate and family of our deceased client, Michael Fairbanks.

Mr. Fairbanks, a 54-years old overweight smoker, husband, and father of two children (one minor at the time), presented to a local hospital emergency room complaining of chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and sweating. The ER physician ordered a chest x-ray, but no blood work or EKG. After misreading the chest x-ray, the ER physician diagnosed Mr. Fairbanks with pneumonia and discharged him with instructions to follow-up with his PCP. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fairbanks suffered a massive myocardial infarction (heart-attack) at home and was pronounced dead.

On behalf of our client’s Estate, wife, and children, we brought suit against the ER physician and hospital.

During the prosecution of this case, we were provided with a copy of the hospital’s protocol for management of chest pain, which mandated that any patient presenting to the ER with complaints of chest pain and shortness of breath be considered to have a heart related problem. Interestingly enough, during her deposition, the defendant ER physician testified that since Mr. Fairbanks complained of shortness of breath and chest “tightness” and not shortness of breath and chest “pain,” she disregarded the hospital protocol and ruled out any possibility that Mr. Fairbanks was experiencing a cardiac event.

Our experts, including emergency room and cardiologist experts, opined that chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and sweating are all classic signs of a cardiac event and that the ER physician breached the standard of care by failing to consider a cardiac event and order the appropriate tests. Our experts further opined that had he been given the proper care, including blood tests, an EKG, and a cardiac work-up, Mr. Fairbanks’ death would have been preventable.

Additionally, it should also be noted that the American Heart Association considers the following symptoms as a sign of an impending heart attack: chest discomfort (including pressure, squeezing, and fullness); shortness of breath; and sweating. Mr. Fairbanks complained of all of these symptoms. The American Heart Association also considers smoking to be a risk factor; Mr. Fairbanks was a smoker.

The defense produced experts that opined that chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing, and sweating all not signs or symptoms of heart disease or a heart-attack and that the ER doctor complied with the standard of care.

Three weeks prior to jury selection, the case settled for a substantial sum. Our client was survived by his wife and two college aged children.

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Publisher: Harry S. Cohen and Associates, P.C.