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Court considered the question of whether a physician breached his duty of care leading to the patient’s death. Estate of Thomas Brown v. St. Francis Hosp., 972 F.3d 789 (7th Cir. 2019)


Medical malpractice is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences for patients and their families. In the case of Estate of Thomas Brown v. St. Francis Hosp., the plaintiff alleged that a hospital’s negligence resulted in the wrongful death of their loved one. This case highlights the importance of holding healthcare providers accountable for their actions and the need for patients and their families to seek legal recourse when medical malpractice occurs.

In 2012, Thomas Brown underwent surgery to remove a mass in his chest at St. Francis Hospital. During the procedure, a resident physician inserted a central venous catheter (CVC) into Brown’s jugular vein, which is a common practice during surgery. However, the resident physician inserted the catheter too far, causing it to enter Brown’s subclavian artery, which supplies blood to the arms and head. This led to a hematoma, or a collection of blood, in Brown’s chest.

The resident physician consulted with the attending physician, who ordered a chest X-ray. However, the X-ray did not show the hematoma, and the resident physician believed that the catheter was correctly placed. Brown was then transferred to the intensive care unit, where he developed symptoms of respiratory distress. A chest X-ray was ordered again, which revealed the hematoma. Brown underwent emergency surgery to remove the catheter and repair the hematoma, but he suffered a cardiac arrest during the procedure and died.

Discussion and Decision
The plaintiff in the case, the Estate of Thomas Brown, alleged that St. Francis Hospital was liable for Brown’s death because of medical malpractice. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the resident physician who inserted the catheter did so improperly, causing the hematoma and ultimately Brown’s death. The plaintiff further argued that the attending physician was also negligent in failing to properly diagnose the hematoma and remove the catheter in a timely manner.

The defendant argued that the resident physician and attending physician followed the standard of care in placing and monitoring the catheter and that Brown’s death was an unfortunate and unforeseeable complication of the surgery. The defendant also argued that Brown’s death was not caused by the alleged malpractice but rather by his underlying medical conditions.

The case went to trial, and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding the estate of Thomas Brown $2.2 million in damages. The court held that the resident physician breached the standard of care by inserting the catheter too far and causing the hematoma. The court also held that the attending physician breached the standard of care by failing to properly diagnose the hematoma and remove the catheter in a timely manner. The court found that these breaches of the standard of care were the proximate cause of Brown’s death.

The hospital appealed the decision, arguing that the damages awarded were excessive and that the jury was not properly instructed on the law. However, the appeals court upheld the verdict and awarded the estate an additional $61,000 in attorney’s fees.

Medical malpractice cases can have devastating consequences for patients and their families. When medical professionals fail to provide proper care, it can result in serious injury or death. Estate of Thomas Brown v. St. Francis Hosp. is a tragic example of the consequences of medical malpractice. It is essential for medical professionals to provide the highest standard of care to their patients to prevent such tragedies from occurring. If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, it is important to consult with an experienced New York medical malpractice lawyer to protect your legal rights and seek the compensation you deserve. The estate of the deceased in a medical malpractice case resulting in death may be entitled to economic and non-economic damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses, as well as intangible losses such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and emotional support. Punitive damages may also be awarded in some cases.

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