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The Most Frivolous Lawsuit Contest Redux: Part II

The Most Frivolous Lawsuit Contest Redux: Part II

Medical Justice takes aim squarely at deterring frivolous litigation. And we provide remedies for those unjustly sucked into such lawsuits.

Ten years ago we ran a contest for the Most Frivolous Lawsuit. The “winning” defendant received a free year of membership in Medical / Dental Justice.

We decided to run that same contest one more time. Candidly, we were stunned by the number of submissions. If anyone claims that frivolous lawsuits just don’t exist or that the numbers have gone down, your submissions suggest otherwise.

There were MANY that could easily have been picked as the winner. The hardest part was narrowing the submissions down to one or even two. So, we picked four. We highlighted two last week; the other two follow – read on. Still, there were so many other “worthy” submissions.

Sued Because I Am Not Superman:

I was sued for failing to respond to a CODE BLUE in a timely fashion.  The patient was a morbidly obese male patient in the mid-40s who had emergency vascular surgery.  He was also diabetic and fully heparinized.  I had not been involved in the care of this patient.  The patient was extubated in the ICU.  He developed respiratory distress and 2 anesthesiologists were unable to intubate the patient.  I am an otolaryngologist who was in my office outside of the hospital when this event occurred.  I was paged by the ICU nurse and asked if I could come to the bedside to help secure a surgical airway.

I left my office (and patients I was seeing) and drove the 2 blocks to the hospital, ran to the ICU.  I performed an emergency cricothyroidotomy quickly with the emergency room physician who was attending the CODE BLUE. The patient did survive but did suffer an anoxic brain injury and eventually died in the nursing home I was sued for failure to respond to a CODE BLUE in a timely fashion even though I was not physically in the hospital and this was not my patient and I successfully performed an emergency cricothyroidotomy.

Never Mind the Lab Results:

Patient was evaluated for a new pregnancy. Pregnancy test was positive and prenatal care was started. An early ultrasound was performed and showed a fetal sac with pole and a heartbeat. The patient was approximately 6 wk pregnant. She returned to the office 4 weeks later for her regular check up. She had no complaints. Fetal Doppler did not detect a heart beat. An ultrasound was ordered at an outside facility. Serial Beta HCGs were also ordered.  The outside facility confirmed no heart beat and a gestational sac measuring approximately 8 wks. The doctor explained to the patient that the fetus stopped growing and that she did not have a viable pregnancy.  He offered to allow her to wait to see if the pregnancy would come down on its own or to have a dilation and curettage. The patient elected to have the dilation and curettage. Her Beta HCG results also came back showing that the pregnancy was not viable as the levels were decreasing. The doctor performed the dilation and curettage 2 days later. The patient was sent home the same day. Two days later the patient experienced some heavy bleeding and passed some tissue. She retained the tissue and went to the ER. She informed the ER physician “[she] believes that she had a twin pregnancy and that [the doctor] performed a dilation and curettage, to remove one twin and the other twin was killed as a result.” She requested that the ER physician analyze the tissue and then return it to her. She sued the doctor for medical negligence claiming that he caused the loss of her healthy twin. 

The plaintiff’s attorney had a podiatrist sign a supporting declaration. The doctor’s attorney filed a motion for summary judgment. The case was dismissed shortly after that. 

Lessons Learned:

If your name is on the chart, and something bad happens to a patient, be prepared to get drawn into a lawsuit.

Not all of our colleagues behave professionally.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Sometimes it does not even matter what the labs show if the patient can demonstrate damages.

So, there you have it. We will be publishing other submissions as there are lessons to be learned. What do you think?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD

Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.

Dr. Segal holds a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.

If you have a medico-legal question, write to Medical Justice at infonews@medicaljustice.com.

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