A state Supreme Court jury has just awarded a 51-year-old Oneonta woman the largest civil verdict in local history -- $126 million -- for a hospital's failure to diagnose and treat her heart attack, which has lead to a debilitated life. The hospital will appeal.
On January 26, 2009, Debora Sohl entered A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital at 9:36 in the morning with "crushing chest pain." She was examined at 2pm and was administered an electrocardiogram test. Over the next two days, three doctors examined her. They merely prescribed anti-anxiety medication and gave her over-night admission. Testimony indicated age and gender bias were in play. All three doctors are still on the Fox staff.
On the second morning, Sohl's ex-husband asked a cardiac specialist he knew, Dr. Anthony Cammilleri, to inspect his wife. Dr. Cammilleri, an attending physician at Fox, testified against his own hospital that upon immediate examination of the patient, he ordered her rushed out to a center with a cardiac catheter laboratory.
The move saved Sohl's life because it turned out she did suffer a heart attack, and the delay caused more tissue damage than otherwise would have been the case. She had lost at least 70% of her heart's pumping capacity. She will need a heart transplant in six years, at a cost of millions of dollars. In the meantime, she will be using a mechanical heart device and will need to use a defibrillator for the next two years.
I handled a case similar to this one involving a 34 year old man who had chest pain. The emergency room doctors did the correct work-up but, we argued, they failed to properly interpret the EKG done in the emergency room. When I had an opportunity to question the emergency room doctor who administered and interpreted the EKG, he said it was clearly normal. Yet, the computer read the EKG as being significantly abnormal. The doctor testified he routinely ignored the computer findings.
Three months later, the patient suffered a massive heart attack, killing off 70% of his heart.
I had three cardiac specialists review the emergency room EKG. They all said, without any hesitation, that it was significantly abnormal and the patient should have had a coronary angiogram which would have immediately identified 3 clogged coronary arteries. Then the patient could have had an elective cardiac bypass surgery...before suffering a massive heart attack.
In my case, the defense recognized the significant risk of going to trial and I was able to successfully settle the case for $6 million dollars.