September 7, 2016Volume 15 Issue 36
Thomas A. Kendrick and Celeste P. Larson of the Birmingham firm of Norman, Wood, Kendrick & Turner received a defense verdict in a wrongful death, medical malpractice action in Jefferson County, Alabama.
In the case of Kathleen Donovan, as the Personal Representative of the Estate of Joe Donovan v. Brookwood Medical Center, the plaintiffs alleged nursing negligence in the care of a patient who was hemodynamically unstable in a critical care unit following surgery. The deceased sustained a perforation of his small bowel during a robotic-assisted nephrectomy. The small bowel perforation was diagnosed and repaired three days later, but the patient had become septic, requiring use of vasoconstrictors to maintain blood pressure.
During the emergency laparotomy to repair the small bowel, the patient suffered an arrest and required resuscitation. He remained on a ventilator for the next seven days. He had shown signs of improvement, but then once again became hemodynamically unstable. He was sent for an abdominal CT around midnight for concerns of continued leakage from the small bowel. After returning from CT, he dislodged his endotracheal tube. His airway was supported by the critical care nurses until he could be re-intubated, but this was not documented in the record. Although he at first seemed stable, his blood pressure dropped again. He was given Dopamine as a vasopressor, but he continued to have difficulty maintaining his blood pressure. He then arrested, and a Code Blue was called, but he could not be resuscitated.
The plaintiff’s theme at trial was based on the adage, “If it is not documented, it was not done.” The plaintiff contended that the nurse assigned to the patient failed to support the airway, should have initiated treatment with Levophed, and should have called a code before the patient actually arrested. These theories were supported by expert testimony from a local registered nurse, a CRNA, and an infectious disease specialist. The jury unanimously rejected these theories, returning a defense verdict in favor of the hospital.
Mr. Kendrick and Ms. Larson are members of the DRI Medical Liability and Health Care Law Committee.