Doctor’s Carelessness in Recording Medical Condition Results in Significant Award

In this medical malpractice case, the plaintiffs sued the defendant for negligence and failure to communicate. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $35.4 million for medical costs, pain and suffering, and more.

Carolyn Casey, J.D.

Written by
— Updated on July 26, 2022

Doctor’s Carelessness in Recording Medical Condition Results in Significant Award

Case Overview

Case Name: Timothy Larkin, Individually and as Guardian and Next Friend of Andrea Larkin, and Timothy Larkin, as Father and Next Friend of Alexa Larkin v. Jehane Johnston, M.D. and Dedham Medical Associates, Inc., No. 2011-00923.

Case Type: Medical Malpractice – Brain Injuries; Negligent Treatment; Failure to Communicate

Injury:

  • brain – stroke
  • other – lobectomy; craniotomy; physical therapy; loss of consortium
  • sensory/speech – speech/language, impairment of
  • arterial/vascular – hemorrhage
  • paralysis/quadriplegia – paralysis

Case Outcome: Verdict – Plaintiff

Award Amount: $35,400,000.00

What Happened?

A 25-year-old woman who taught grade school and aerobics named Andrea Larkin was experiencing dizziness. Andrea then saw her primary physician, Jehane Johnston, M.D., to find out why she was feeling the ongoing dizziness. The first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and a computed tomography scan (CAT) Dr. Johnston ordered in 2004 revealed abnormalities in Larkin’s brain. The left side of her brain had a large venous varix. A venous varix is a blood vessel that is at least two times the diameter of the draining vein. The imaging also showed Larkin had an aneurysm on the right side of her brain. A brain aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain. Additionally, a brain aneurysm can leak or rupture, causing a hemorrhagic stroke.

Again in 2005, Larkin complained to her doctor about the dizziness. MRI and CAT scans that year also showed the same conditions in the young woman’s brain. In 2006, Larkin then claimed Dr. Johnston failed to order or refer her for testing. Moreover, Larkin did not see Dr. Johnston after October 2006.

Complications with Delivery

Larkin gave birth to a baby in 2008 and then suffered a hemorrhagic stroke during procedures needed for delivery complications. Her OB/GYN team was unaware of her brain conditions, which Dr. Johnston hadn’t listed in her patient’s problem list. A problem list is a medical document where physicians state a patient’s most important health problems and anything else that is ongoing with the patient. A useful medical problem list gives a clear picture of a patient’s health problems that demand consideration or medical intervention.

Andrea Larkin suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke during the delivery of her daughter. She also lost function in all extremities other than her right arm. After two post-stroke procedures, Larkin was in hospitals and also rehabilitation programs for 18 months. Additionally, Larkin currently requires 24/7 care and ongoing physical, speech, and occupational therapy. She is also unable to work. Following this, the plaintiffs brought causes of action for medical malpractice and negligence against Dr. Johnston.

Allegations and Testimony

The plaintiffs alleged that defendant Johnston never discussed the medical significance of the imaging findings with Andrea Larkin. Additionally, Dr. Johnston did not disclose Larkin’s brain abnormalities on the Problems List. As such, her OB/GYN group was unaware of her brain condition and proceeded with a standard vaginal delivery birth.

The plaintiffs also argued that Dr. Johnston’s negligence and breach in the standard of care led to labor complications. These complications included the formation of a blood clot and the resulting hemorrhagic stroke. The defense argued that the OB/GYN doctors deviated from standard medical practices when they failed to review Larkin’s entire medical record. However, the defense’s arguments were not persuasive to the jury.

Who Won the Case?

The jury sided with the plaintiffs, returning a verdict of $35.4 million against the defendants. The jury awarded Andrea Larkin $4 million dollars for future medical costs and $12.9 million for pain and suffering. Additionally, the jury awarded Andrea Larkin $1.5 million for lost earnings. Her daughter, Alexa Larkin, also received $1,500,000 for loss of a parental relationship. Furthermore, the patient’s husband Timothy Larkin got $4.5 million dollars for loss of consortium with his wife.

Expert Specialties

The defendants retained expert witnesses in:

Key Takeaways

This case reminds personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers how important qualified and competent medical experts are for prevailing in a lawsuit. Here, the plaintiff’s expert(s) clearly helped establish that Dr. Johnston’s failure to note Larkin’s cranial venous varix and aneurysm in her Problems List did not comport with proper medical standards. Conversely, the defendant’s expert witnesses apparently failed to convince the jury that it was the OB/GYN team that acted outside medical norms when it did not read the patient’s entire record.

Another takeaway for medical malpractice lawyers is to be sure your experts thoroughly review medical records to surface such things as an important omission in a standard document like a patient’s Problem List. Additionally, you should have good experts to help establish lost earnings and medical expenses to ensure your client secures the maximum compensation for their injuries.

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