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Bill Ranard Obtains Not Guilty Verdict in Claim for Medical Negligence and Alleged Wrongful Death

May 13, 2016Related Practice Areas: Medical Liability
William W. Ranard

Plaintiff's estate claimed that the defendant cardiologist failed to diagnose cardiomyopathy leading to congestive heart failure and an early demise of 48 year old woman. The decedent presented to the Emergency Room in 2004 in complete heart block with a heart rate in the 30's and 40's. The cardiologist was consulted. An echocardiogram was performed but found to be sub-optimal and inconclusive as to the exact left ventricular ejection fraction. An x-ray demonstrated mild enlargement of the heart. She had a history of rhythm disturbances for which she never followed up even though instructed to do so. The court ruled that this evidence was inadmissible because the cardiologist "takes the patient as he finds her." The patient was treated with a dual chamber pacemaker and Beta Blockers for heart rhythm issues which corrected her low heart rate. She was seen by the cardiologist one month after discharge and was doing well with no complaints. One year later, in 2005, she returned to the cardiologist in congestive heart failure. An echocardiogram at this time measured her left ventricular ejection fraction at 15 to 25% with normal being 50% and above. She was then diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and treated with ACE Inhibitors and her Beta Blockers were increased. The cardiologist also referred her to an electro-physiologist for an upgrade of her pacemaker to a Bi-Ventricular with ICD. The decedent was initially placed on a heart transplant list but was de-listed due to her weight and improvement in her left ventricular function.

The decedent filed suit in 2007 and passed away in 2010 at the age of 54. Plaintiff alleged that the Cardiologist should have diagnosed the cardiomyopathy and treated her with ACE Inhibitors and a higher dose of Beta Blockers initially. Further, additional studies should have been done including a MUGA scan and/or TransEsophageal echocardiogram to better determine the ejection fraction, which would have led to the determination that she had a cardiomyopathy. Plaintiff alleged that this 13 month delay caused severe congestive heart failure in 2005 and irreversibly worsened her cardiomyopathy decreasing her life expectancy. The case was defended on the theory that a reduced ejection fraction was to be expected due to the complete heart block that was present. As a result, additional testing would not have provided additional information to make the diagnosis of cardiomyopathy. The appropriate treatment was given and it was possible that the right sided heart pacing from the dual chamber pacemaker caused the congestive heart failure which is a known complication. Also, the patient had several reasons for the radiographic appearance of a mildly enlarged heart including being morbidly obese, having COPD, having a chronic low heart rate, and the fact that the x-ray was taken from a view that magnifies the heart. Further, it was argued that there was no evidence in the case that even if cardiomyopathy was present in 2004 that the administration of ACE Inhibitors would have changed the course of the disease as her condition was idiopathic meaning the cause was unknown. Plaintiff estimated the cost of a heart transplant in the $700,000 range but abandoned the claim for these damages upon her death and after her physicians testified that she would not have qualified for a heart transplant. The plaintiff's attorney did not ask for a specific dollar amount from the jury but stated that it was worth more than a few hundred thousand dollars. The jury deliberated for just over two and one half hours.

The above summary is specific to a particular case and is not intended as a projected outcome on any other matter.

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