The Winding Path to an Unclear Diagnosis
Skip Jewett and Jeremy Palma
Navigating the unknowns of an emerging diagnosis is an incredibly challenging and nuanced effort, especially when it comes with little warning. But Rissman is no stranger to wrongful death suits, having maneuvered more than 1,500 jury trails across countless defense matters.
In a recent wrongful death case, Skip Jewett and Jeremy Palma obtained a defense verdict for a major healthcare institution following an 11-day trial.
In the case, the plaintiff claimed that the decedent’s clinician, a hematologist oncologist at the defending medical group, negligently failed to urgently refer them to a rheumatologist for suspected lupus, an autoimmune disease.
The decedent had been hospitalized and was diagnosed with pancytopenia, the potential causes of which included a potential viral or bacterial infection, lymphoma, leukemia, and/or an autoimmune disease.
After discharge, the decedent followed up with his primary care provider, who referred him to the defending clinician for a hematology evaluation. The clinician let the plaintiff know that the likely causes were viral infection or autoimmune disease. Though viral testing was negative, there are many viruses for which there aren’t tests, and a viral infection is the more common cause as opposed to an autoimmune disease.
The plan was to continue exploring potential causes of the condition, but the decedent left on an out-of-state family holiday trip within this period. During the vacation, the decedent’s condition worsened. The defending clinician had told the decedent to visit the emergency room if the condition worsened, but he did not do so until very late in the trip.
When he was finally admitted to the ICU, he was in septic shock, and blood testing was consistent with lupus. However, the primary problem was sepsis, and the decedent ultimately passed after deteriorating as a result of the sepsis.
Special thanks to Kara Graham, Kyle Deweese, Kelly Fetro, Matt Hicks, Katie Gannon, and Ashley Leasure. This was truly a team effort.