By Arlin Crisco – CVN, Courtroom View Network
Defense attorneys in medical negligence cases must often overcome jurors’ natural tendency to engage in hindsight bias when they consider a doctor’s care. At trial over the communication and treatment surrounding a Florida woman’s ectopic pregnancy, Louis La Cava’s closing on staff expectations and an artful warning on hindsight bias helped clear the doctors that treated her.
Stacey Santangelo-Santana’s’s 2014 ectopic pregnancy — a nonviable pregnancy outside the uterus — led to the loss of one of her fallopian tubes, and left her unable to naturally conceive. Santangelo-Santana sued Exodus Women’s Center and its two treating obstetricians — Drs. Dawn Ericsson and Stephen Wagner— as well as pathologist Dr. Robert Ruffalo, claiming that delays in communicating pathology results led to the loss of her fallopian tube. Ruffalo, she contended, failed to properly contact Ericsson and Wagner regarding the pathology results, while the two obstetricians, she claimed, did not follow up to obtain the results.
Lou La Cava, Piper Hurley and Jim Wetzel obtained a defense verdict for two Obstetrician/Gynecologists and their practice groups in a medical malpractice case tried in Hillsborough County. The Plaintiff alleged she had to have her only fallopian tube removed due to a delay in diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy. Plaintiff’s claimed that both defendants failed to follow up on a pathology report after a Dilatation and Curettage. The pathology report showed that the specimen removed did not contain any chorionic villi and therefore there was a suspicion for an ectopic pregnancy. The ectopic pregnancy ruptured before being diagnosed and therefore the patient could not have a more conservative treatment which would have preserved the tube. The case was defended on both standard of care and causation. The defense position was that while there was a system failure regarding reporting the results of the pathology report it was not caused by the negligence of the physicians. Further, it was argued that the Plaintiff more likely than not would have needed to have her tube removed even if the ectopic pregnancy was diagnosed sooner. After an 8 day trial the jury returned a verdict finding that there was no negligence that was a legal cause of injury to the Plaintiff.
Jon Lynn got a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case after a one week trial in Broward County. The defendant, an orthopedic trauma surgeon, was sued by his former patient who had sustained a comminuted fracture of her left forearm that the doctor treated with a long arm cast. The plaintiff’s expert testified that there was virtually no chance that the fracture would heal without surgery and told the jury that the defendant was negligent because he failed to perform an open reduction and internal fixation within a week or two of the accident. The fracture went on to a non-union and the plaintiff had surgery by another orthopedic surgeon two years later. She claimed damages as a result of the delay in surgery. The jury disagreed and returned a verdict for the doctor.
In October 2019, Lou La Cava and Iva Valtcheva were successful in obtaining a voluntary dismissal with prejudice in a case against a physical therapist in Pasco County. The Plaintiffs alleged that the physical therapist was negligent in her care of the patient when she allegedly left her patient unattended and he suffered a fall, which resulted in an injury to his amputated limb, subsequent infection, revision of the initial amputation, and prolonged hospitalization and recovery thereafter. The defense argued that the incident did not occur as it was described by the Plaintiffs, that the physical therapist did not leave her patient unattended and that she did not breach the standard of care. It was further argued by the defense that the infection and need for the second amputation was not caused by the alleged fall; rather, the injuries claimed were the sequelae of Plaintiff’s long-standing health issues including diabetes and peripheral vascular disease. There were no offers made to settle the matter and the case was prepared for trial. After two years of zealously defending the physical therapy provided, the Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the matter with prejudice without any payment made on behalf of the physical therapist or her employer.
Lou La Cava and Brett Gliosca obtained a defense verdict in a case alleging negligence in the use of the Florida Mental Health Act (Baker Act) and false imprisonment against two emergency medicine physicians. The Plaintiff alleged there were insufficient grounds to initiate the Baker Act and a failure to rescind the Baker Act when the subsequent physician took over care. She also alleged violation of the Baker Act because she was not transferred to a facility for a mental health examination within in the 12 hour time period mandated by the Baker Act. Lou and Brett successfully defended the case with the jury returning a verdict finding no negligence and that the Plaintiff was not falsely imprisoned.
Jon Lynn obtained a defense verdict for an oral surgeon in West Palm Beach after a 5 day trial. The oral surgeon was sued because he allegedly extracted a wisdom tooth that did not need to be extracted and the patient sustained a nerve injury that would leave her with permanent pain and numbness of her left lower lip and chin. The patient had been referred to the oral surgeon by her dentist who had examined the patient the day before the extractions. He testified that although the patient needed her right lower wisdom tooth removed, her left lower wisdom tooth was “perfectly fine”. The oral surgeon contended that both lower third molars needed to be extracted and the patient suffered a known complication of wisdom tooth extraction. The jury deliberated for an hour before returning a defense verdict.
Jonathan Ficarrotta and Kari K. Jacobson obtained a defense verdict in a premises liability case tried in Hillsborough County (Tampa) Florida. The Plaintiff alleged that the design and construction of the stairs at a local hospital led to her slip and fall and injuries. The Jury found that the hospital was not negligent.
Lou LaCava and Marci Strauss obtained a defense verdict for a hospital and two pulmonologists in a 2 ½ week wrongful death medical malpractice case in Broward County, Florida. The Decedent was a 46 year old physician. It was alleged that the hospital and physicians should have intubated the patient upon arrival to the emergency room rather than utilize non-invasive BiPap to reverse severe respiratory acidosis. The Plaintiff alleged the BiPap caused air to accumulate in the patient’s bowels and as a result, the patient underwent abdominal surgery, developed multi system organ failure and later died. The defense argued BiPap was the appropriate treatment and the patient developed an injury to his bowels as a result of taking drugs at home which was a combination of prescribed and unprescribed medications. Lou and Marci also had to defend claims of nursing negligence and hospital policy and procedure issues. Also, due to vicarious claims against the hospital, the care of the emergency room physician and admitting physician had to be defended. The patient was survived by his wife and two minor children who had claims as survivors. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award over 20 million dollars. After hearing all of the evidence the jury returned a verdict finding the hospital and all 4 physicians were not negligent and that negligence was not the legal cause of the patient’s death.
The jury returned a defense verdict after a three day trial in Miami. The defendant, an obstetrician/gynecologist, had allegedly removed a perfectly normal right ovary from a 46 year old woman who had been complaining of left lower quadrant pain for almost 4 years. Jon Lynn represented the defendant and convinced the jury that, under the facts and circumstances of the case, the decision to remove the ovary was reasonable and certainly within the standard of care.
Jon Lynn obtained a defense verdict for a dentist after a week-long trial in Miami. The dentist had been sued by a former patient who developed a life-threatening infection after the dentist had extracted four of her teeth to treat her chronic advanced periodontitis. The patient had to be hospitalized for almost a month, most of which she spent in the ICU on a ventilator. Her medical bills totaled almost $300,000. The Plaintiff claimed that the dentist misdiagnosed an obvious osteomyelitis of the mandible which resulted in the lengthy hospitalization. The defense argued that the infection represented a progression of the patient’s periodontal disease which occurred despite appropriate care by the dentist. The jury ultimately concluded that the dentist was not negligent and was not liable for the patient’s injury and damage.