$1.5 Million Cook County Jury Verdict in Patient Death for Delayed Diagnosis in Vascular Surgery

Guadalupe Ramirez had a history of congestive heart failure.  She was also an insulin-dependent diabetic, had mitral valve regurgitation, atrial fibrillation, rheumatic heart disease, high blood pressure and a prosthetic heart valve.  Ramirez, 72, underwent a cardiac catheterization procedure on Nov. 21, 2003.  Eight days after the procedure, Ramirez presented to the emergency department at the University of Illinois Hospital (UIC) complaining of groin pain.

The defendant, Dr. Joan Briller, was the attending cardiologist for the first 24 hours of her admission.  Dr. Briller and other physicians considered a retroperitoneal bleed in their assessment, but did not order a CT scan until about 22 hours later.

All parties agreed that a retroperitoneal bleed is a recognized complication of cardiac catheterization and often occurs in the absence of negligence.

A CT scan would be the best way to diagnose a retroperitoneal bleed.

When the CT scan was done, it confirmed the bleed but was inconclusive as to the origin of the bleeding. Once the bleed was diagnosed, the defendant physicians treated Ramirez reversing her anticoagulant medications and administering blood products (fresh frozen plasma and packed red blood cells).

Dr. James Carroll was Ramirez’s attending cardiologist for the second 24 hours of her hospital admission.  After about 30 hours of medical management and a second CT scan, which confirmed the bleeding was coming from a hole in the femoral artery, defendant Dr. Henry Baraniewski performed an exploratory laparotomy and repaired the artery.  Dr. Baraniewski is a vascular surgeon.

However, Ramirez did not recover well from the surgery, never left the hospital and died 45 days after the surgery.

The family of Ramirez filed this lawsuit claiming that Drs. Briller and Carroll should have recognized the retroperitoneal bleed earlier, and they should have instituted treatment and called in the vascular surgery team earlier.  In addition, it was maintained that Dr. Baraniewski should have performed surgery sooner and that the defendants’ choosing not to timely intervene was the cause of Ramirez’s death and/or lost chance of survival.

The defendants contended that the physicians had to consider and investigate a myriad of causes for the patient’s symptoms because she had such extensive pre-existing co-morbidities.  They argued that a retroperitoneal bleed usually resolves with medical management and without surgery more than 98% of the time and the risk of performing surgery outweighed the benefits due to Ramirez’s existing co-morbidities.  The defense also claimed that considering the patient’s anticoagulation status, the defendants actually saved Ramirez’s life in that she survived another 45 days before eventually dying because of other health problems.

The jury, on the other hand, believed that Dr. Baraniewski, who did the exploratory laparotomy, was negligent while Dr. Briller and Dr. Carroll were not.

The jury’s verdict $1,481,799 versus Dr. Baraniewski only was made up of the following damages:

  • $800,000 for loss of society;
  • $250,000 for pain and suffering;
  • $200,000 for loss of normal life; and
  • $231,799 for medical expenses.

Drs. Briller and Carroll were found not negligent.

The attorneys representing the family of Ramirez were Thomas H. Murphy and Benjamin B. Kelly.   Before trial, a demand of $1,100,000 was made.  Counsel for the Ramirez family asked the jury for a verdict of $3,431,799.  On behalf of the defendant doctors and the University of Illinois, there was no offer to settle before trial.

Estate of Guadalupe Ramirez, deceased v. Dr. Joan Briller, Dr. Henry Baraniewski, Dr. James Carroll, No. 12 L 66077 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence claims, hospital negligence actions and cardiology and cardiovascular negligence cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Oak Park, Cicero, Calumet City, Arlington Heights, Chicago (Midway, Marquette Park, Pullman, Hegewisch, South Shore, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Chinatown, Bronzeville, Pilsen), Elmhurst, Bensenville, Brookfield, Hillside, Westchester, Elk Grove Village, Palatine and Highland Park, Ill.

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