January 14, 2002
Wrongful Death — Ruptured Intracranial Aneurysm —$3.25 Million Confidential Settlement
Brief statement of claim: The plaintiff's decedent sued for wrongful death, alleging the defendant radiologist overlooked evidence of an intracranial aneurysm, which ruptured, causing a catastrophic hemorrhage.
Principal injuries (in order of severity): Death due to ruptured intracranial
Special damages: n/a
Tried or settled: Settled
County where tried or settled: Confidential
Case name and number: Confidential
Date concluded: Dec. 28, 2001
Name of judge: n/a
Amount: $3.25 million
Insurance carrier: n/a
Expert witnesses and areas of expertise: n/a
Attorneys for plaintiff: Wade E. Byrd, Fayetteville, and Sally A. Lawing, Greensboro, of the Law Offices of Wade E. Byrd; Bobby J. Crumley, Greensboro
Other useful info: In December 1999, the plaintiff's decedent sought medical attention on account of a severe headache. He first saw his family physician, then later went to the emergency room in his hometown. There, a head CT was read as normal. Nonetheless, he was referred to a neurologist.
The neurologist's examination was normal except for a slight nystagmus. The headache had been present for more than a week at this point, and the neurologist felt that a lumbar puncture was not likely to be helpful. He sent the patient for an MRA (magnetic resonance arteriogram) at a nearby regional hospital to rule out an aneurysm.
The study was read by the defendant radiologist as completely normal. Based on this report, nothing further was done by the neurologist.
The patient, a 46-year-old man, continued his life as normal, working as an aircraft mechanic. However, three months later, a missed aneurysm ruptured, causing catastrophic intracranial hemorrhage. He was hospitalized and underwent a coiling operation. He died after 10 days in the hospital.
At his deposition, the defendant conceded that the aneurysm could be seen on several images in retrospect, according to the plaintiff's counsel. He offered no excuse for his failure to see the lesion, saying only that it was a perceptual error and therefore not a breach of the standard of care.
The plaintiff had three radiology experts who said that the lesion was readily apparent and in a common location. The neurosurgeon who ultimately treated the plaintiff following the fatal hemorrhage testified that if the plaintiff had been referred for treatment during the three-month interval between Dec. 22, 1999, when the MRA was performed, and March 13, 2000, when the aneurysm ruptured, his chances of a perfect outcome with no residual neurologic impairment were 95 percent or better.
The patient was survived by his wife and four children, three of whom were still in the home. His annual income in 1999 was $55,000.
Suit was filed on March 23, 2001, the one-year anniversary of the patient's death. All discovery was completed by Oct. 31, 2001, and the case had been set for trial in March 2002. The case settled after two mediations had been productive but unsuccessful.