The family of a man who died after a vein implant designed to stop blood clots migrated to his heart and caused fatal cardiac arrest has won a $3.2 million verdict against a Montgomery County hospital.
A Montgomery County jury handed up the verdict Sept. 21, finding three doctors and Mercy Suburban Hospital negligent in their care of Ernest Lucchesi, who was refereeing a lacrosse game when he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital.
After nine days of trial and seven hours of deliberation, the jury found Dr. David Bolden 25 percent negligent, Dr. Hugh Lipshutz 31 percent negligent and Dr. John J. Flanagan 44 percent negligent. The award was broken down into $1.5 million for wrongful death and just over $1.7 million under the Survival Act.
The Lucchesi family’s lawyer, Robert F. Morris, who tried the case with partner Seth D. Wilson, both of Morris Wilson in Plymouth Meeting, said, “Two of the doctors admitted negligence: one before trial and one during trial. And the third doctor, when he took the stand to defend himself, the jury didn’t like his excuses and assigned the majority of the negligence to him.”
Morris addressed the perception that suburban jurors are tougher for plaintiffs lawyers to win over than their big-city counterparts.
“If you have a case that has merit you can succeed in Montgomery County as well as anywhere else,” he said.
The defendants’ attorney, John C. Farrell of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, declined to comment.
According to the plaintiffs’ pretrial memorandum, doctors at Mercy implanted the vein filter in Lucchesi six months prior to his death. When Lucchesi was admitted to the emergency room, Bolden failed to note that the filter had migrated to his atrial valve, court papers said. He died three days after his discharge from Mercy.
The defendants, in their pretrial memorandum, claimed a failure to diagnose Lucchesi did not lead to his death.
They also argued that open heart surgery undertaken to correct the implant migration would have likely killed Lucchesi, due to its piercing of the heart and its placement.
The defendants pointed to expert reports claiming that the length of time needed to complete the surgery and the division of Lucchesi’s breastplate would have complicated matters.