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Failure to Diagnose Impending Cardiac Event; Subsequent Heart Attack and Death

Filed under Misdiagnosis

The Cherico Case

In this case, we represented the widow and Estate of our deceased client, Leonard Cherico.

On May 8, Leonard Cherico and his wife went to his PCP’s office after Mr. Cherico experienced clear signs of a heart problem (rapid heart rate, diaphoresis, weakness, decreased urine output, and pain between his shoulders) after shoveling snow. The PCP diagnosed Mr. Cherico with “nerves” and nicotine withdrawal, prescribed Zyprexa (a psychotropic drug), and scheduled Mr. Cherico to have testing and blood work done eight days later on May 16 (oddly, in his deposition, the Defendant PCP claimed that Mr. Cherico came to his office because he intended to stop smoking and was anxious about the decision – although Mr. Cherico stopped smoking prior to this visit and the tests ordered were clearly for something different).

Three days later, on May 11, Mr. Cherico was taken to the emergency department at Monongahela Valley Hospital with complaints of shortness of breath, tachycardia, lethargy, pain in his shoulder, edema, and pale skin color (which proved to be symptoms of more heart problems). He was ultimately admitted to the ICU where he was diagnosed with a heart attack.

The following day, Mr. Cherico experienced bradycardia and a grand mal seizure. Once he was stabilized, on May 15, Mr. Cherico was transferred by ambulance to Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh where he underwent a triple coronary artery bypass. He remained at Mercy Hospital until his transfer to a long-term care facility for brain-injured individuals in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania on June 30.

During his stay at the long-term care facility, Mr. Cherico remained minimally responsive and was dependent upon medical personnel for his most personal needs. He had a tracheostomy to facilitate breathing and was fed all food and fluids through a gastrostomy tube. Mr. Cherico was unable to feed himself, care for his hygiene, move himself from place to place or communicate with his family, who, as imagined, was devastated by his catastrophic injury. Mr. Cherico’s condition continued to deteriorate over the following months until his untimely death on February 22.

Prior to these events, Mr. Cherico lived with his wife, Barbara, and worked as an engineering consultant. He was also temporarily caring for his mother. Mr. Cherico was very active and independent and enjoyed frequent backpacking and camping trips.

On behalf of Mr. Cherico’s widow and his Estate, we brought suit against the PCP and his corporation.

We secured the opinion of an expert internal medicine specialist, who opined that the Defendant deviated from the standard of care in numerous ways, some of which included: failing to obtain a proper medical history; failing to promptly order treatment and testing to rule out an acute and/or imminent cardiac event; and failing to make a differential diagnosis.

Our firm also retained an expert cardiologist who opined that the Defendant’s negligence significantly increased the risk that Mr. Cherico would suffer a heart attack and subsequent brain injuries which ultimately caused his death.

The Defendant, while admitting his negligence, intended to defend the case with a “causation” defense. The causation defense was that centered on an ill-fated argument that “even if the Defendant acted properly, Mr. Cherico would still have suffered a heart attack and subsequent injuries.”

A few weeks prior to a scheduled jury trial, a substantial settlement was reached.