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Unanimous Defense Verdict in Eight Day Wrongful Death Trial

Joel A. Williams and James W. Moss obtained a defense verdict in an eight day trial in Madison County, Alabama in which a general surgeon was sued for wrongful death.

The case involved a 41 year old bariatric surgery patient who awoke from surgery with neurological deficits and a diagnosis of spinal cord injury. The Plaintiff alleged that the surgeon should have initiated prophylactic anticoagulants to prevent development of a deep vein thrombosis which resulted in a fatal pulmonary embolism eleven days after surgery. The Plaintiff presented a position paper of the professional society of bariatric surgeons that recommended routine use of such anticoagulants unless contraindicated.

The defense presented evidence that (1) the position paper was not the standard of care; (2) that the use of anticoagulants posed a risk of paralysis or death if the spinal cord injury should bleed; (3) that safe and effective means of DVT prevention were used by the surgeon, namely sequential compression devices ("SCD's") on the legs; (4) that the SCD's were just as effective as anticoagulants therefore the causation element was speculation and (5) that the clot formed after the patient was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital and when she was not under the surgeon's care.

The jury deliberated four hours before the unanimous verdict on April 29, 2015.

In August 2014, Joel A. Williams also tried an eight day wrongful death medical malpractice case with Colbert County defense attorney Braxton Ashe, in which a defense verdict was returned in favor of an emergency room physician.

The patient was discharged from the emergency department with an impression of lumbar strain, or possible bulging lumbar disc. Two days later the patient died at home as the result of an aortic dissection which caused cardiac tamponade.

The defense presented evidence that the patient did not present with the signs and symptoms that a person suffering an aortic dissection is expected to have, therefore the failure to order a CT exam was not a breach of the standard of care. Expert testimony was also presented to contest the claim that the patient had suffered a dissection while being treated in the emergency room.

Contributing Author:

Joel A. Williams
Joel A. Williams
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