by Michael J. Sacopulos
A Lawrenceville, Georgia jury earlier this month awarded $3 million dollars to the Estate of William Martinez. Mr. Martinez was 31-years old in 2009, when he entered his cardiologist office. There he complained of chest pain that radiated into his arm. His cardiologist found that Mr. Martinez was at “high risk” of having coronary disease and ordered a nuclear test to be performed. The test was scheduled to take place eight days after Mr. Martinez initial appointment with his cardiologist. The cardiologist alleges that Mr. Martinez was instructed to avoid exertional activity until after the nuclear stress test was completed. The family of Mr. Martinez argues that no such instruction was given.
The day before his nuclear stress test Mr. Martinez apparently engaged in some “exertional activity.” In fact, Mr. Martinez engaged in a three-some with a woman who was not his wife and a male friend. Yes; while in midst of having a three way sexual experience Mr. Martinez died. His family members then proceeded to bring a medical malpractice claim against his cardiologist and the cardiologist’s practice. Presumably the family’s thought was, if William Martinez had been properly instructed to avoid high risk activities, he certainly would have complied. After all, isn’t that evident by his behavior?
The family initially had brought a claim for $5 million dollars but this claim was reduced by a finding that Martinez was 40% liable for his own death. I pause here to note the mathematics. One would assume that engaging in a three-way activity would make him 1/3rd liable for his own damages, but apparently there were facts not known to me that increased his liability 40%. We can only speculate…
In August 2011, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that cardiologist are the specialty of medicine most frequently named in medical malpractice actions. In fact, cardiologist in the United States have a roughly 1in 5 chance of being sued in any given year. Based off the Martinez case, I am beginning to see how these statistics can actually be true. The cardiologist’s attorney indicates that an appeal will be taken. For now, we will all have to wait and see how the appellant court system of Georgia reacts to this case.