Cook County Emergency Room Error Leads to Nurse’s Death – $3 Million Settlement in Sperl v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp.

When dealing with emergency situations, oftentimes minutes can make a difference in the patient’s outcome. So in the case of Margaret Kaiser-Sperl, a five day delay in diagnosing her impending stroke led to her death. A Cook County medical malpractice lawsuit was brought by her husband against the hospital that failed to timely diagnosis her medical emergency; Richard R. Sperl, Jr., as independent administrator of the Estate of Margaret Consuelo Kaiser-Sperl, deceased v. Advocate Health and Hospitals Corp., et al., No. 09 L 012104.

Ms. Kaiser-Sperl was a 45 year-old nurse and mother of two who presented to the emergency room at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital with complaints of recent balancing problems and hearing loss. Alan Kumar, M.D., the emergency room doctor, incorrectly diagnosed her symptoms as migraine headaches and sent her home. However, a look back at those emergency room records revealed that Ms. Kaiser-Sperl was actually having a transient ischemic attack, which is a precursor to a stroke.

Within five days of her emergency room discharge, Ms. Kaiser-Sperl returned to the emergency room. Her symptoms were similar to her prior visit, but this time she also had dizziness, facial droop, and weakness in her left arm. While this time the emergency room physicians recognized the seriousness of her condition and admitted her, it did not help to prevent her from suffering from a massive stroke. Within a week of the second ER admission, Ms. Kaiser-Sperl was dead as a result of the earlier emergency room error.

Ms. Kaiser-Sperl’s husband filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Lutheran General Hospital in response to the preventable emergency room errors that led to his wife’s death. The medical malpractice complaint alleged that the decedent was not properly evaluated during her first emergency room visit and that Dr. Kumar chose to ignore the signs of her pending life-threatening stroke. The decedent’s estate was also critical of Dr. Kumar’s decision to not obtain a neurology consult to evaluate Ms. Kaiser-Sperl’s condition.

Furthermore, the emergency room error complaint contended that if Dr. Kumar had in fact recognized the obvious signs and symptoms of Ms. Kaiser-Sperl’s pending stroke that she would not have died. When dealing with strokes, time is of the essence; hours can make a drastic change in a patient’s outcome, so the delay of five days was akin to a death sentence for Ms. Kaiser-Sperl.

Rather than going to trial, the defense elected to settle the wrongful death/ medical malpractice lawsuit. Dr. Kumar, the emergency room physician, settled for $2.75 million, while Lutheran General Hospital contributed $250,000. Cook County Circuit Court Judge William D. Maddux approved the $3 million settlement.

Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices has been handing medical malpractice and wrongful death cases for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Hazel Crest, Tinley Park, Evergreen Park, Melrose Park, Des Plaines, Prospect Heights, and Carol Stream.

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