Defense Verdict in Pulmonary Embolism Case

Philip Willman and Justin Hardin obtained another verdict for the defense in a re-trial of a case involving a sprained ankle that lead to a fatal pulmonary embolism. The decedent, a 36-year-old mother of three, sprained her ankle while bowling on April 29, 2004. She was referred to the defendant after visiting the emergency room. She was diagnosed with a sprained ankle and provided a walking boot. The decedent returned for an unscheduled appointment on May 5, 2004, complaining of burning and tingling in her toes. She was seen by the orthopedic surgeon and fully evaluated.  She was diagnosed again with a sprained ankle and instructed to exercise her foot as tolerated. Two days later, she collapsed while getting into her car after leaving work. She was rushed to the hospital and died shortly thereafter from a pulmonary embolism. The case initially went to trial in April 2013 and resulted in a defense verdict. However, that verdict was reversed on appeal and the matter was remanded for a new trial. In the re-trial, plaintiffs claimed defendants were negligent in not prescribing prophylactic anticoagulation therapy on April 30, 2004, and failing to order an ultrasound on May 5, 2004, which would have revealed the presence of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Plaintiffs argued the decedent’s risk factors, which included obesity, taking birth control pills and immobility of the left lower extremity, were enough to warrant prescription of anticoagulation therapy to prevent the development of a DVT. Defendants claimed that there were no signs or symptoms warranting suspicion of a DVT, and that the risk factors were not sufficient enough to cause the orthopedic surgeon to suspect the decedent was at risk of developing a DVT. In addition, defendants highlighted the risk associated with prescribing anticoagulation therapy to patients who were not at high risk of developing DVTs. At closing, plaintiffs’ counsel sought between $1.5 million and $2 million in damages. After six days of evidence, the jury returned a defense verdict on behalf of all defendants.