Cook County Jury Verdict for Hospital and Doctor in Failure to Hospitalize Pneumonia Patient Blamed for Death

Danute Paulaviciene, 57, came to the office of the defendant internist, Dr. Edmund Vizinas, on Dec. 27, 2008 complaining of fever, shortness of breath and poor sleep. She had recently visited the caves in Missouri. On examination, she was noted to have a fever of 100.5 degrees, pulse of 110, respirations of 16 and 94 percent oxygen saturation level.

Dr. Vizinas ordered a chest x-ray, complete blood count and metabolic profile. The patient returned to Dr. Vizinas two days later and told him she was feeling better and had no shortness of breath on exertion. Her temperature was normal. Dr. Vizinas told her that her chest x-ray revealed extensive bilateral infiltrates, her complete blood count was essentially normal with a normal white count and a slight rise in neutrophils and her metabolic profile showed slightly decreased albumin, elevated sedimentation rate, slightly decreased total cholesterol and slightly elevated liver function.

Dr. Vizinas started her on Avelox, an antibiotic given for community acquired pneumonia. On Dec. 31, Paulaviciene’s daughter-in-law checked on her at 4 a.m. and found that she had a fever, but by 6 a.m., it had come down. At 8 a.m. she was coughing but not gasping or having difficulty breathing. However, by 9 a.m., she was extremely short of breath, gasping and unable to speak. She was rushed to Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., with severe shortness of breath and 82 percent oxygen saturation levels while on oxygen. She was sent to the ICU at the hospital and placed on a ventilator. Her condition never improved, and she died 11 days later survived by her adult son and a daughter who lives in Lithuania.

The family brought this lawsuit alleging that Dr. Vizinas should have immediately hospitalized Paulaviciene on Dec. 29 and started intravenous antibiotics and if he had done so, she would have received appropriate treatment and oxygen and would have survived.

The defendants, including Dr. Vizinas and his medical practice, argued that Dr. Vizinas gave the patient samples of Avelox on Dec. 29, which was the correct antibiotic for community acquired pneumonia. They also argued that hospitalization was not required because she was feeling better and appeared to be improving with clearer lungs and good color.

The defense also maintained that despite receiving the correct antibiotic, the patient experienced a very rare and sudden explosive event in which the pneumonia bacteria multiplied and released cytokines causing organ damage and death. This is an unpredictable occurrence that happens without warning and has almost always ended with death.  There was nothing the defendant doctor could have done to prevent this sudden catastrophic turn of events. The deceased was a native of Lithuania and spoke very little English.  Dr. Vizinas’ parents were also from Lithuania and he was able to converse with her in her own language.

After considering all of the evidence and testimony, the jury found in favor of Dr. Vizinas and against the family of Paulaviciene.  The demand to settle the case before trial was $1 million, which was the doctor’s insurance policy limit. The jury was asked to return a verdict of $2,600,000. There was no offer from the defendants to settle the case. 

Estate of Danute Paulaviciene v. Dr. Edmund Vizinas, et al., No. 10 L 1517 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, wrongful death matters and pharmaceutical defect 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 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago Heights, Romeoville, Bartlett, Barrington Hills, Highwood, Highland Park, Schiller Park, Richton Park, Rosemont, Evergreen Park and Chicago (Beverly), Ill.

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