Code and Baginskis Successfully Defend Internal Medicine Physician in Death Case

Michael Code and Mark Baginskis successfully defended an internal medicine, primary care physician, in a case involving an 84 year-old attorney, who had been admitted to a hospital due to an increased cough, being weak, and not eating or drinking. The internal medicine physician had been treating the patient for close to 8 years, and had been co-managing the patient’s cardiac status with a cardiologist for the previous 4 years. Upon admission to a medical-surgical/respiratory floor, the patient initially was worked up for a possible bowel instruction, along with his other symptoms. In the early morning of the third day of this admission, the patient’s respiratory status was worsening. After being contacted by the patient’s nurse, the primary care physician ordered Lasix and a nebulizer treatment, which were promptly given to the patient. Sometime near the end of the nebulizer treatment, the patient suffered an arrest, was resuscitated, but sustained anoxic encephalopathy. He lived for nearly three more months dependent upon a ventilator before expiring. Medical expenses totaled nearly $500,000. The plaintiff alleged the internal medicine physician should have transferred the patient to a telemetry or intensive care unit (ICU), prior to the nebulizer treatment, and should have consulted with the patient’s cardiologist some time prior to the arrest. The defense argued the internal medicine physician had appropriately treated the patient, was not required to transfer the patient to the telemetry unit or ICU, and did not need to consult with the patient’s cardiologist, when the patient had not been admitted primarily for cardiac issues. The plaintiff asked the jury for $2.8 million. The trial lasted three and a half weeks. After deliberating four hours, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant.