Medical Malpractice – Hospital Negligence – Failure To Diagnose Brain Hemorrhage And Failure To Raise Bed Rails

VERDICT: $2,967,038 for principal Pltf.; $532,962 for spouse for loss of services. Liability: Lenox Hill 50%; Yatrakis 50%. Lenox Hill settled during trial for $650,000.

Breakdown: $47,000 for past medical expenses; $45,655 for future medical expenses; $24,000 for past custodial care; $1,800,000 for future custodial care; $500,000 for past pain and suffering; $500,000 for future pain and suffering.
V/12-1 Medical Malpractice – Hospital Negligence – Failure To Diagnose Brain Hemorrhage And Failure To Raise Bed Rails

Eileen and Thomas Kenny v. Lenox Hill Hospital and George Yatrakis 14581/78 15-day trial Verdict 5/6/86 Judge Stanley L. Sklar, New, York Supreme

Pltf. Atty: Harvey Weitz of Schneider, Kleinick & Weitz, Manhattan

Deft. Atty: George Pickwick, Bronxville, for Lenox Hill; Anthony M. Sola of Martin, Clearwater & Bell, Manhattan

In this medical malpractice-hospital negligence action, Pltf. claimed that Defts.’ failure to raise her bed rails caused a fall that resulted in traumatically-induced hemiplegia. The fall occurred on 8/29/76. Pltf., a 44-yearold licensed practical nurse, had been admitted to the hospital by Dr. Yatrakis, a general physician, with a diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy. After consulting with a neurologist, he changed the diagnosis to subarachnoid hemorrhage secondary to cerebral aneurism. On the day of the accident, she was discovered on the floor beside her bed. She was found with a hematoma and lacerations to the head, and a blood pressure of 210 over 140. Within about 36 hours, she began to develop right-side hemiplegia and aphasia. Trial testimony indicated that she is at increased risk of seizures. She also alleged psychiatric and emotional damage. She claimed to be totally disabled from work, and to require constant custodial care.

Pltf. contended that Dr. Yatrakis was negligent in failing to order that her bed rails be raised, and failing to order round-the-clock nursing care. Further, Pltf. contended that Yatrakis should have allowed another physician to take her case completely once her true condition became known, because he had little experience treating neurological patients. The action against the hospital (settled at the close of Pltf.’s case) was for failing to ascertain, because of administrative error, that Pltf. had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Pltf.’s hospital chart informed the nursing staff only of the original diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy.

Dr. Yatrakis argued that the trauma to her head could not have been the cause of her symptoms. Deft. attributed Pltf.’s hemiplegia, seizures, and aphasia to the continuing course of the subarachnoid hemorrhage for which she was hospitalized. Deft. also called the neurosurgeon with whom he conferred, who testified that he did not recommend side rails or round- the-clock nursing care. Deft. argued that he was justified in relying upon that advice. He contended that it was proper to leave the decision regarding side rails to the nursing staff. He also argued that Pltf., who in addition to the subarachnoid hemorrhage had been previously diagnosed as a schizophrenic and an alcoholic, would not have been able to return to work in any event. The issue of Pltf.’s comparative negligence in attempting to leave her bed against medical advice was not before the jury. Pltf. had obtained summary judgment on that issue prior to trial. Pltf. Experts: Dr. Lawrence Kaplan, neuropsychiatrist, Manhattan; Dr. Howard Krieger, neurologist, Manhattan. Deft. Experts: Dr. James McMurtry, neurosurgeon, Manhattan (consulted with Deft. before accident); Dr. John Train, examining psychiatrist, Manhattan.


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