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Patient Sues Anesthesiologist for Medical Malpractice

In a recent decision, a Fairfax County, Virginia, court found a Maryland anesthesiologist liable for medical malpractice and defamation. The plaintiff, D.B., was undergoing a routine colonoscopy when his accidental recording of the procedure later revealed that both attending physicians had insulted him throughout the proceeding. After a three-day trial, the jury found the anesthesiologist and her practice liable for $500,000 in damages.

The Facts

After unwittingly documenting a conversation that took place between the anesthesiologist, Dr. Tiffany M. Ingham, the gastroenterologist, and numerous assistants during his colonoscopy, the plaintiff discovered that the healthcare professionals had mocked and belittled him throughout the procedure.

When a nurse pointed out a rash on the plaintiff, Ingham warned the assistant not to touch it, saying she might get “some syphilis on [her] arm or something,” and later added that the rash was “probably tuberculosis in the penis.” Addressing the plaintiff, who was unconscious, Ingham stated that “after five minutes of talking to [him] in pre-op…[she] wanted to punch [him] in the face,” referring to him as a “retard” and questioning whether he was gay.

The doctors also discussed ways to “mislead[] and avoid[]” the plaintiff, like instructing an assistant to lie to the patient or include a fake report on his chart. The anesthesiologist even went so far as to write that the patient had hemorrhoids on his chart, though he did not.

Medical Malpractice

To prove medical malpractice, a plaintiff must show:

●The existence of a duty owed by the health care professional to the plaintiff;

●The applicable standard of care;

●The health care professional’s deviation from that standard, which constitutes a breach of duty;

●A causal connection between the physician’s deviation from the standard of care and the plaintiff’s injury; and

●An injury to the plaintiff.

According to the Code of Medical Ethics issued by the American Medical Association, patients have the right to respect and courtesy from attending physicians. The Code also prohibits “disruptive behavior” on the part of the acting physician. Disruptive behavior means personal conduct, either verbal or physical, that negatively affects or could negatively affect the patient. In this case, Ingham’s insulting behavior and falsification of medical records violated the Code, which represents the standard duty of care across the nation in regards to patient-physician relations.

The plaintiff claimed to have suffered physically and emotionally as a result of the physicians’ actions. He admitted to mental anguish as well as a lack of focus which made him unable to sleep. The plaintiff also offered evidence that he sought the help of other physicians, who placed him on anti-anxiety medication.

Damages

Ingham worked out of a practice in Maryland, which the jury ruled was responsible for $50,000 of the $200,000 in punitive damages that were awarded. The jury further ordered Ingham to pay the plaintiff $100,000 for defamation and $200,000 for medical malpractice.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers Fight for You

Medical malpractice can have devastating economic and emotional consequences. If you have been injured because of the carelessness of a medical professional, please contact a Maryland personal injury attorney at the Law Office of Robert R. Castro for a free consultation.

Court Issues Ruling on Wrongful Deaths of Maryland Family

On October 1st, a divided appeals court affirmed the dismissal of three companies from a wrongful death lawsuit involving the deaths of a Maryland family of five in a tragic car accident. In its decision, the court ruled that the dismissal was justified based on the legal theory of intervening causes.

Baumann v. Zhukov

In 2012, Vladimir Zhukov and Keith Johnson were involved in an accident that temporarily blocked the highway. Roughly 40 minutes later, Christopher and Diana Schmidt and their children were stopped at the end of the ensuing mile-long traffic jam, when Josef Slezak, a truck driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel, collided with their vehicle, killing all of the occupants.

In a subsequent suit brought against Zhukov and Johnson, the plaintiffs alleged that it was their negligence in causing the first accident that proximately caused the Schmidts’ deaths.

Proximate Cause

A person’s actions proximately cause another’s injuries if three elements are satisfied:

  • But for the negligence, the injury would not have occurred;
  • The injury was the natural and probable result of the negligence, and
  • There is no efficient intervening cause.

The question before the court was whether Slezak’s collision with the Schmidts’ car constituted an intervening cause.

Intervening Causes

An intervening cause is the independent conduct of a third person that breaks the causal connection between the original conduct and the eventual injury and itself constitutes the proximate cause of the injury..

The causal connection is severed when:

  • The negligent actions of the third party intervene between the defendant’s conduct and the plaintiff’s injury;
  • The third party had full control of the situation;
  • The third party’s negligence could not have been anticipated by the defendant; and
  • The third party’s negligence directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injury.

The Court’s Analysis

In deciding whether Slezak’s negligence was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the defendants’ actions, the court stated that while general anticipation that the accident would cause traffic was reasonable, it was not reasonably foreseeable that a fatigued truck driver would, at a point one mile away from the collision, hit the back of the Schmidts’ car while going 75 miles per hour and not even attempting to brake.

The court further pointed to the fact that numerous semi-tractor-trailers were able to stop safely in the line of traffic, and that many drivers, including the Schmidts, turned on their hazard lights. Furthermore, responding emergency personnel had also activated their lights and sirens. Essentially, the scene would have presented a patently obvious hazard to approaching drivers.

Based on these factors, the court found that Slezak’s negligence constituted an intervening cause that severed the causal link between the defendants’ negligence and the deaths of the Schmidt family, shielding the defendants from liability.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers Fight for You

At the Law Office of Robert R. Castro, our Charles County, Maryland personal injury attorneys have extensive experience representing clients whose loved ones were killed due to the negligence of other, in Waldorf, St Charles, Clinton, Charles County, St. Mary's County, or anywhere in the State of Maryland. Call us at 301-705-5253 today for a free initial consultation.

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