Lubell & Rosen defend physicians from medical malpractice claims

, Daily Business Review

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Julia Ingle and Steven Lubell
Julia Ingle and Steven Lubell

She was initially seen by the ER doctor and soon after by her family physician, Dr. Dwight Dawkins. Over the course of the day's diagnostic work, Miller also was seen by a cardiologist and a neurologist.

The physicians proceeded on the presumption that the most likely cause was a mild heart attack. She was given a dose of the blood thinner Lovenox at 10:05 p.m. She went into cardiopulmonary arrest at 11 p.m. and died at 12:05 a.m.

Plaintiffs case: Her widower brought suit against the ER doctor, the ER staffing group, cardiologist, primary care doctor and hospital, said David Baroff, Gunn's legal assistant. The plaintiff settled with the hospital, ER doctor and ER staffing group pretrial and dismissed the cardiologist as a defendant.

The autopsy revealed Miller died of a massive pulmonary embolism. She had a saddle embolism, which plugs both branches of the pulmonary artery. She also had showers of small emboli that the medical examiner suspected caused her to faint on the day she died.

Gunn alleged Dawkins should have suspected a pulmonary embolism as the cause of the fainting in his initial diagnosis.

The theory of the case was that all of the physicians were negligent in failing to consider the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism and failing to order a single test to rule it out. Many simple, inexpensive tests were available, Baroff said.

"Additionally, the primary care doctor was negligent for failing to know the hospital rules governing the administration of medications. As a result, although the doctor ordered Lovenox, which probably would have prevented the fatal embolism had the drug been given immediately upon admission, the patient didn't receive the drug until 10 p.m. because the doctor failed to write the order using the proper terminology that would have resulted in the patient receiving the medication immediately," he said.

Dr. David Korn, an Aventura cardiologist, was the plaintiffs expert witness on the embolism. His credibility was attacked by the defense, which told the jury that he testified for plaintiffs in 121 of 125 cases where he appeared as an expert.

When the case went to the jury, Gunn asked for $1.2 million in damages for pain and suffering plus funeral costs. There was no request for punitive damages.

The jury also heard from Miller's husband, daughter and pastor. A housewife married to a retired landscaper, Miller was active in her church and beloved in her community.

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