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Philadelphia Jury Awards $2.185 Million for Death Caused by Failure to Read Test Results

A Philadelphia jury found that the death of a 51 year old man at St. Joseph’s Hospital was preventable and awarded $2.185 Million to his wife of 17 years. Zachary Jones was taken to St. Joseph’s by ambulance after complaining of chest, back and leg pains. An Emergency Room doctor, Dr. Powell, evaluated Mr. Jones within 30 minutes of his arrival at the E.R. and ordered a variety of tests to include blood work, x-rays and an echocardiogram (DEFINE). Unfortunately, the tests Dr. Powell ordered weren’t done for almost 2 hours and by then, Dr. Powell had left the hospital to attend a meeting in Horsham. When Dr. Powell left the E.R., he turned over care of Mr. Jones to Dr. Skobeloff, who had arrived for his first day on the job. Mr. Jones attorney told the jury that Dr. Powell was scheduled to be orienting Dr. Skobeloff all day, but instead left Dr. Skobeloff on his own while Dr. Powell went to the meeting.

If Mr. Jones care had been handled appropriately, his test results would have been read by the E.R. doctor caring for him as soon as they were done and then the tests would have been sent to the radiology department for an “official” read by a radiologist at some later point. Instead, Mr. Jones’ test results were not reviewed by either Dr. Powell (who had left the hospital) or Dr. Skobeloff (who was new to the E.R) and were simply sent on to radiology where the were not reviewed until the morning, by which time Mr. Jones had died. The tests showed that Mr. Jones had a dissecting aortic aneurysm (blood filling in between the layers of the heart wall and the sack that surrounds the heart) that prevented the heart from pumping properly. If the tests had been reviewed, Mr. Jones would have been transferred to another hospital for an operation that may have been able to fix his problem.

Mrs. Jones, who herself was recovering at a different hospital when Mr. Jones was taken to St. Joseph’s, sued St. Josephs and both Dr. Powell and Dr. Skobeloff for the negligent care of her husband. The hospital and doctors argued to the jury that Mr. Jones had a complicated medical history, including high blood pressure and “chronic” failures to properly take his blood pressure medication. They also argued that even if they had learned that Mr. Jones suffered from a dissecting aortic aneurysm, they wouldn’t have had enough time to transfer him to another hospital for surgery. The jury apparently rejected these arguments and concluded that Mr. and Mrs. Jones deserved the opportunity for another hospital to try to save Mr. Jones’ life. The jury found Dr. Powell 48% responsible, Dr. Skobeloff 36% responsible and St. Joseph’s 16% responsible.

This case demonstrates why it is important to have a qualified lawyer who understands medicine review the medical records of a loved-one who dies unexpectedly while under medical care.