Michigan Verdicts

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Estate: Doctors failed to detect and treat deadly embolism

Amount:

$40,000,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Michigan

Venue:

Wayne County

Court:

Wayne County, Circuit Court

Injury Type(s):

other-death; cardiac-cardiac arrest; arterial/vascular-embolism; pulmonary/respiratory

Case Type:

Wrongful Death – Survival Damages; Medical Malpractice – Misdiagnosis, Failure to Test, Failure to Detect, Failure to Monitor, Failure to Diagnose

Case Name:

Dushon Watkins as the personal representative of the estate of Terra Holly, deceased, v. Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit Medical Center Corporation, ER Now, Legacy FRH-UHC, Legacy SHGD, VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital, Inc., VHS of Michigan and Dr. John M. Wilburn,
No. 2015-011510-NH

Date:

August 28, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Dushon Watkins (Male, 47 Years), 

Estate of Terrea Holly (Female, 26 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Geoffrey N. Fieger;
Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Harrington, P.C.;
Southfield,
MI,
for
Dushon Watkins, Estate of Terrea Holly ■ James R. McCullen;
Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Harrington, P.C.;
Southfield,
MI,
for
Dushon Watkins, Estate of Terrea Holly

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Saul Levine; M.D.; Emergency Medicine; San Diego,
CA called by:
James R. McCullen ■ Nitin Paranjpe; Ph.D.; Economics; Bloomfield Hills,
MI called by:
James R. McCullen ■ Andrew Wachtel; M.D.; Pulmonology; Los Angeles,
CA called by:
James R. McCullen ■ Werner Spitz; Ph.D.; Forensic Pathology; St. Clair Shores,
MI called by:
James R. McCullen

Defendant(s):

ER Now, 

Legacy SHGD, 

Legacy FRH-UHC, 

John M. Wilburn, 

VHS of Michigan, 

Detroit Medical Center, 

Detroit Medical Center Corp., 

VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital Inc., 

Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center

Defense Attorney(s):

William A. Tanoury;
Tanoury, Nauts, McKinney & Garbarino, PLLC;
Livonia,
MI,
for
ER Now, Legacy SHGD, Legacy FRH-UHC, John M. Wilburn, VHS of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit Medical Center Corp., VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital Inc., Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center ■ Matthew Piccirilli;
Tanoury, Nauts, McKinney & Garbarino, PLLC;
Livonia,
MI,
for
ER Now, Legacy SHGD, Legacy FRH-UHC, John M. Wilburn, VHS of Michigan, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit Medical Center Corp., VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital Inc., Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center

Defendant Expert(s):

Mark Thomson;
Emergency Medicine;
Southfield,
MI called by:
William A. Tanoury, Matthew Piccirilli ■ Robert Hyzy;
Pulmonology;
Ann Arbor,
MI called by:
William A. Tanoury, Matthew Piccirilli ■ Francis McGeorge;
Emergency Medicine;
Detroit,
MI called by:
William A. Tanoury, Matthew Piccirilli ■ Ljubisa Dragovic;
Forensic Pathology;
Pontiac,
MI called by:
William A. Tanoury, Matthew Piccirilli

Facts:

On Oct. 16, 2013, plaintiff Terrea Holly, 26, a mortuary assistant, went to the emergency room at Detroit Receiving Hospital with high heart and respiratory rates and shortness of breath with exertion that had lasted for five days. After being evaluated and undergoing an electrocardiogram, she was released. However, her condition worsened the next day and she was transported back to the hospital by ambulance. While at the hospital, she suffered cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m. Holly’s mother, Dushon Watkins, filed suit on behalf of Holly’s estate, suing John Wilburn, M.D., the hospital and its various legal entities, Detroit Receiving Hospital and University Health Center, Legacy DRH-UHC Legacy SHGD VHS of Michigan, ER Now, VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital, Inc., Detroit Medical Center and Detroit Medical Center Corporation. The lawsuit alleged medical malpractice and wrongful death. All of the defendants except Detroit Receiving Hospital and Detroit Medical Center were dismissed by the estate prior to trial. According to the lawsuit, Holly was evaluated by a resident on October 16, and was found to have high blood pressure, a high respiratory rate and blood with an oxygen level of 94 percent. Dr. Wilburn, the attending physician, did an electrocardiogram and diagnosed her with viral syndrome, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome; mild normocytic anemia, a condition that affects red blood cells; and dehydration. Wilburn discharged Holly after her condition improved with fluids and rest at the hospital. Holly returned home, but her shortness of breath continued and worsened the next day. She returned to the ER that afternoon via ambulance with the same symptoms, but her condition had severely deteriorated. Medical personnel aggressively tried to resuscitate her as she went from being alert and oriented times three (although distressed with difficulty breathing and hypoxic) to becoming nonverbal. She was intubated. At 2:48 p.m., about 48 minutes after her arrival at the ER, her heart rate decreased to 52 beats per minute. Within five minutes, she had no pulse. Resuscitation continued and, after another 31 minutes, Holly regained a pulse of 97 for six minutes before going back into cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead at 3:50 p.m. The estate claimed that Holly died from a massive pulmonary embolism and, had doctors treated her with anticoagulants/blood thinners during her first ER visit, she would not have suffered the fatal condition the next day. The estate alleged several deviations from the accepted standard of care the first time Holly went to the ER, especially in light of clear indications of a pulmonary embolism at that visit. The estate argued that the deviations included a failure to complete a full evaluation of Holly’s condition; failing to include a venous thromboembolism on the differential diagnosis; failing to perform and review diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis; failing to review and respond to available data on Holly’s condition; failing to treat the venous thromboembolism with anticoagulants; and failing to admit Holly to monitor her condition. An emergency medicine expert who testified for Holly’s estate said that a D-dimer test, which looks for the presence of blood clots, should have been conducted to rule out the possibility of a pulmonary embolism. The defense claimed Holly had been suffering from a cold and was asymptomatic by the time she was discharged. The decision to release her was reasonable, the defense claimed, and a blood clot found during her autopsy was not the clot that caused her death. There had been an argument by the estate that a right bundle branch block, which was present in this case, was a sign of a pulmonary embolism. Two emergency medicine experts for the defense refuted this, asserting that the science supporting this claim had been “debunked.”

Injury:

Holly allegedly died from cardiac arrest brought on by a pulmonary embolism. She was survived by her parents, Dushon and Joseph Watkins, and her sister, Tiarra Watkins. The estate sought all damages possible under Michigan’s wrongful death statute, Michigan Compiled Laws ยง 600.2922, including expenses for medical costs, burial and funeral; lost wages; pain and suffering endured by the deceased; pain and suffering experienced by the family; and loss of care and companionship. The defense claimed that damages should be limited because Holly, at 359 pounds, was overweight and likely would never have gotten a lucrative job. The defense also argued that Holly’s household services to her family were minimal.

Result:

The jury determined that the hospital was negligent and deviated from the standard of care, resulting in Holly’s death. The jury determined that the estate’s damages totaled $40 million. The verdict was expected to be reduced pursuant to the state’s cap on non-economic damages.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Annette J. Berry

Trial Length:

8
 days

Trial Deliberations:

3
 hours

Jury Composition:

3 male/ 4 female

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Additional information was gleaned from media reports. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.