Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly has published their list of Virginia’s Largest Verdicts in 2018. Wharton Aldhizer & Weaver’s med-mal verdict in Augusta County is listed as number six.
Smith v. Baca and Augusta Emergency Physicians, Ltd.
Forty year old mother of two teenagers, happily married to her high school sweetheart, had a sudden onset stroke at her parents’ home with slurred speech, facial droop, difficulty walking, flaccid arm and leg. 911 was called by her mother specifically for stroke response. The patient could be heard slurring her speech in the background of the recording. The patient could not be airlifted because of weather. Symptoms subsided during transport but resumed before arrival at the hospital. The emergency doctor diagnosed migraine headache and prescribed a migraine cocktail. He also ordered a head CT that left TPA as an option to treat ischemic stroke. Forty minutes later the symptoms broke through and the doctor prescribed another migraine cocktail. The doctor did not consult a neurologist or utilize the hospital’s telestroke neurology consultation system within the 4.5 hour window to order TPA, a clot busting drug for ischemic strokes. The patient’s symptoms continue to worsen until an MRI is ordered 50 minutes after the TPA window closed. The MRI showed a massive posterior circulation stroke. The patient was transferred to MCV. Following placement of an EVD and two attempts at craniotomy, the patient succumbed to brain stem herniation, the family having to make the decision to discontinue life support. Significantly, the ER doctor changed his note the day of her transfer to add information making it appear that he had considered stroke and TPA – notations that were not originally in the note. Also, the doctor testified falsely in his deposition that he had passed both parts of his board exam on his first attempt.
The attorneys representing the plaintiff were Frank Hilton, Tripp Franklin and Alexandra Humphreys.