Mary Kay Scott and Teresa Maher obtain not guilty verdict on behalf of defendant family medicine physician in month long trial

Tried 11/11/18 – 12/12/18

Mary Kay Scott and Teresa Maher tried a medical negligence case in Cook County, IL, from November 11, 2018, through December 12, 2018, and obtained a not guilty verdict on behalf of a defendant physician and his corporation. Plaintiff, a 76 year old woman, presented to Presence Resurrection Medical Center on December 3, 2013, after an untimed wake up stroke. The plaintiff had a long history of high cholesterol and hypertension and had been prescribed statins and aspirin. She refused to take statins and took aspirin per history of her treating cardiologist every other day. In the emergency department it was determined due to the untimed onset of stroke, that the patient was not a candidate for TPA. She had a large right sided MCA stroke with petechial hemorrhage noted on CT scan in the ER and evaluated by the stroke neurologist. Her symptoms in the ER included left side neglect and bilateral loss of vision on both eyes on the left side. The defendant family medicine physician was on call for unassigned patients being admitted to the hospital from the emergency department. The family medicine physician consulted with neurology to follow the stroke and to evaluate the patient for treatment for the stroke. Cardiology was also consulted as the plaintiff gave a history of atrial fibrillation and cardiology was to follow for that condition. In fact, the patient never had atrial fibrillation according to her long time cardiologist who testified at trial. The neurology consultant held anticoagulation and anti-platelets, and the patient was evaluated by rehabilitation medicine and transferred to the rehab unit at Presence Resurrection Medical Center on December 4th. Neurology continued to follow the patient, and changes were made to her Parkinson’s medication to optimize her for rehab. The patient had Parkinson’s symptoms since 2006 and was diagnosed and medicated for that disease since 2009. In 2009, her physician testified she had a useless left hand, was dragging her left leg, had urinary and bowel issues, soft speech, and had begun to have right sided symptoms. By 2013, her current neurologist noted she was using a cane and stopping and reeling when she walked.

Follow up CT scans on December 5 and December 7, 2013 showed an evolving stroke with petechial hemorrhage and a 9 mm. midline shift from right to left. On December 7, she developed chest pain, and was transferred to telemetry, worked up, and found to not have any cardiac issue. She was seen by another neurologist, who in response to an inquiry by cardiology prepared a note on December 9, 2013, indicating if the patient was found to have atrial fibrillation, she would be started on anticoagulation as of December 11.

She returned to rehab on December 10, 2013, but was now unable to walk. The patient remained in rehab, no neurologist ordered anti-platelets such as aspirin, and the family medicine physician testified he was relying on the neurologist as to timing of medication. The neurologist testified that as she had a stroke on aspirin, it was unlikely to prevent a second stroke, and further that during the time of the hospitalization, she was at risk for a second stroke. The rehabilitation physician testified she would need full time assistance and ongoing rehabilitation after the first stroke.

On December 18, 2013, she had a TIA and a Rapid Response was called. She was cleared by the Rapid Response team, no petechial hemorrhage was present on the CT scan, and she returned to rehab. Two hours later, she had another large right sided MCA stroke and suffered left side paralysis, and aspirin was started by a neurologist at that time. She ultimately transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and at the time of trial was unable to walk, and needed full time assistance.

The plaintiff asked the jury to award $12.2 million, and the verdict was not guilty for all defendants which included: the family medicine physician and his corporation, the initial neurologist and his corporation, the second neurologist who was originally named and voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit, but was identified as either an actual or apparent agent of the hospital after plaintiff’s opinion neurology witness was critical of that physician. All three physicians were found to be apparent agents of Presence Resurrection Medical Center, which was also found not guilty.