$900,000: Stroke Misdiagnosed In Emergency Room

CASE DESCRIPTION: Plaintiff was hospitalized on 12/2/87 and misdiagnosed as having acute thought disorder. Since the Plaintiff was uncooperative a CT scan of his brain could not be obtained. Plaintiff was later transferred and treated for 5 days at Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute before a CT scan of the brain was taken. The scan revealed the Plaintiff had an occlusion of the right carotid artery which had caused a stroke. Plaintiff brought suit for Medical negligence in that a CT scan should have been done sooner to which would have limited the extent of his injuries.

RESULT: $900,000.00 total settlement

At approximately 4:35 a.m. on February 2, 1987, the Plaintiff, Amato D., was brought to the Emergency Room at Humana Hospital West Anaheim. He was exhibiting bizarre behavioral symptoms. The Plaintiff was evaluated by Emergency Room physician, Defendant Jurgen H., M.D., who diagnosed an acute thought disorder. Dr. Jurgen H. testified that he included in his differential diagnosis the possibility of cerebral vascular accident or stroke but could not obtain CT scan because of the patient”s uncooperative nature and combativeness. Dr. Jurgen H. contacted Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute, a psychiatric hospital. A representative from that hospital came to Humana Hospital West Anaheim, evaluated Mr. Amato D. and certified, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code § 5150, that he was a danger to himself and was therefore placed on seventy-two (72) hour hold. The Plaintiff was transferred by ambulance to Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute.

Mr. Amato D. remained at Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute from February 2, 1987 until February 7, 1987. During that time he was under the care of psychiatrist, Robert M., M.D. He was also examined on February 6, 1987 by internist, Joey S., M.D. On February 5, 1987 there were signs of left-sided weakness. On February 7, 1987, the plaintiff was transferred to Brea Community Hospital where a CT scan was obtained. The CT scan showed inter-cranial swelling and an angiogram was obtained which revealed an occlusion of the right carotid artery which had caused stroke. The stroke resulted in permanent disability consisting of left sided weakness, hemi-parysis and some brain damage.

Plaintiff Carol D. sued for loss of consortium. Plaintiff contended that the Emergency Room physician, Dr. Jurgen H. and Emergency Room nursing staff were negligent in not obtaining a CT scan or consultation by neurologist on February 2, 1987. They further contended that it was negligent to transfer the plaintiff to a psychiatric hospital without communication with doctors at the psychiatric hospital the need for a CT scan or the need to rule out organic brain disease. Plaintiffs contended that the patient should have been transferred to an acute medical care hospital rather than a psychiatric hospital. The staff of Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute were also negligent for failing to detect the signs and symptoms of the stroke prior to February 7, 1987.

Defendants contended that it was not possible to obtain a CT scan because the patient was uncooperative and combative. To obtain CT scan it would have been necessary to sedate the patient through general anesthesia. Defendants contended that they had every expectation that a CT scan would be obtained at Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute. Defendants further contended that the impression of Dr. Jurgen H. of an acute thought disorder was reasonable under the circumstances presented. Defendants contend that the Plaintiff was not suffering a stroke on February 2, 1987 and that the stroke did not occur until later when the plaintiff was a patient at Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute on February 6, 1987.

TYPE OF CASE: Medical Negligence; Loss of consortium

INJURIES: Left-sided weakness and hemiparysis. Some cognitive brain damage. Seizure disorder which is controlled by medication.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: From 2/2/87 -2/7/87 in the Emergency Room at Humana Hospital West Anaheim; Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: Husband Amato D. – 37 at time of incident.

OCCUPATION: Husband Amato D. – Manufacturing Engineer.

Darren O. Aitken & Wylie A. Aitken
For Plaintiffs – Amato & Carol D.

Also Phillip Cifarelli
For Plaintiffs

Mark Franzen
For Defendant – Jurgen H., M.D.

Glenn H. Clark
For Defendant – Humana Hospital West Anaheim

Robert Sheppard
For Defendant – Robert M., M.D.

John Molvana
For Defendant – Joey S., M.D.

Snyder Patin
For Defendant – Brea Neuropsychiatric Institute