Medical Malpractice Case Report: $357,500 for failure to diagnose aortic irregularities in 38-year-old woman resulting in death

Kathleen Flynn Peterson secured a medical malpractice settlement of $357,500 in a failure to diagnose an aortic aneurysm case that resulted in the death of a 38-year-old woman. Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice (MAJ), Feb. 2008, Vol. 27, Number 1, Minnesota Case Reports: 

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association's (MTLA) "Minnesota Case Reports")

In May 2004, 38-year-old female experienced sudden onset of chest, abdominal, and back pain. She went to an urgent care facility, and was immediately transported via ambulance to the hospital for cardiac assessment. She received morphine during the transport. Emergency room physician performed a history and physical and ordered abdominal and chest films which he interpreted as normal. The physician made a diagnosis of dyspepsia and ordered a GI cocktail and more morphine. He later discharged her. The female died nine hours later from a dissecting aortic aneurysm identified at autopsy. 

Plaintiff's experts testified that the defendant was negligent for failing to include aortic dissection in the differential diagnosis and for misreading the chest film by failing to identify a widened mediastinum and aortic irregularities. Defendant's experts countered these opinions, pointing out that the radiologist who had overread the chest films the next morning read them as normal.

At the time of her death, the woman had been married for six years and had a 16-year-old son from a prior relationship. She was employed as a sales assistant at a stock brokerage firm.  She had been estranged from her son during part of his childhood, but the son lived with her at the time of her death. Her husband, a thrice-convicted felon, was already on his third marriage at the time. Although the couple was together at the time of the death, the couple had significant marital problems and deposition testimony revealed that the husband had been abusing the decedent and the viability of the marriage was questionable at best. The case settled two weeks before trial at a time when plaintiff had been under court order to produce the decedent's marriage counseling records. 

Settlement: $357,500