Cook County Jury Sides with Hospital in Misdiagnosed Brain Aneurysm Medical Malpractice/ Wrongful Death Case

Rebecca Gaither was transported by ambulance to West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Ill., on Nov. 27, 2012 with complaints of rear lower head pain and vision loss in her right eye. At the emergency room, she complained of a sudden onset of neck pain with an immediate episode of seeing stars in her right eye.

The triage nurse assessed her blood pressure as elevated and assigned her to the next available treatment bed. During examination by an emergency department doctor, Gaither, who was just 47 years old at the time, reported a sudden onset of lost bilateral vision and sharp neck pain while she was reaching for a phone. Following a normal neurological exam, the ER doctor ordered CT scans of the head and neck with and without contrast, for a suspected dissection of the left vertebral artery.

However, Gaither collapsed and became unresponsive before the scans were done. She was immediately transferred from West Suburban Medical to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., where a CT angiogram showed a ruptured 1.6-centimeter aneurysm in the right ophthalmic artery, left vertebral artery dissection with arteriovenous fistula and extensive severe fibromuscular dysplasia.

Despite surgery for the endovascular aneurysm coiling and coil obliteration of the vertebral artery fistula, Gaither died two days later on Nov. 29, 2012. Gaither was survived by her husband and three young daughters. Her medical expenses were $226,718 with a lifetime of lost wages of $1,400,000. She worked as a licensed clinical psychologist.

The Gaither family filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital maintaining that the defendant hospital chose not to properly assess and monitor its patient, failed to obtain a STAT CT scan and also failed to timely diagnose and treat her ruptured brain aneurism that caused Rebecca Gaither’s untimely death.

The hospital’s attorneys argued that this patient had two separate pathologies which became symptomatic on the same day but hours apart, her initial symptoms upon arrival at the hospital were consistent with vertebral artery dissection, but not a sentinel bleed of the aneurysm, the dissection was the source of her neck pain and visual symptoms, and a sentinel bleed from the ophthalmic artery aneurysm will cause only unilateral vision in one eye but not in both eyes.

The defendants, the hospital and its parent operating company, also maintained that she did not present with classic symptoms of a stroke or a subarachnoid hemorrhage (or the worse headache of her life), she never complained of a headache, the triage nurse appropriately triaged her to the waiting room, the triage nurse timely and appropriately triaged Rebecca to the next available treatment bed and even if a CT scan had been performed earlier without contrast, it was argued that it would not have detected the aneurysm.

The demand to settle the case before trial was $14,250,000. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $39 million. The only offer made by the defendant before the trial was $3 million.

The Gaither family produced experts in emergency medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, emergency room nursing and vocational economics. The Gaiter family also presented treating medical providers in emergency medicine, nursing and a paramedic.

The defendants presented experts in cardiology, emergency medicine, emergency room nursing, neurosurgery and an economist.

Unfortunately, the Cook County jury found in favor of the defendant hospital and the hospital’s parent company.

Estate of Rebecca Gaither, Deceased v. West Suburban Medical Center, et al., 13 L 12173 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death cases, hospital negligence lawsuits and birth trauma litigation 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 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Tinley Park, Aurora, Bolingbrook, North Chicago, Waukegan, Gurnee, Crystal Lake, Grayslake, Bensenville, Calumet City, Blue Island, Worth, Alsip and Chicago Heights, Ill.

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