We represented a nephrology group who staffed a dialysis center and the medical director of the dialysis center/group. Plaintiff was a 47 year old, married, father of one, with end stage renal disease on dialysis for over 25 years. He came in with evidence of an infection at his access site, complaining of fevers and chills. He was seen by one of the doctors of our group who ordered cultures and administered IV antibiotics. He was administered antibiotics when he returned for dialysis again 2 days later. The cultures grew out staph bacteria. However, instead of calling the dialysis center with the critical positive culture results, the hospital microbiology lab faxed it to a phone number and thus was never received. The lab, however, uploaded the result into the computer system which the doctors had access to. Several days later, when symptoms worsened, plaintiff presented to New York Hospital (Cornell) where he was found to be in septic shock. He was subsequently diagnosed with endocarditis and died.
Plaintiff argued that the doctor (employed by our group) who saw plaintiff when he initially presented failed to check the computer for the result and further failed to call the lab directly knowing the dangers associated with possible blood stream infection. Additionally, it was alleged that he failed to instruct staff to follow up with the lab for results. Plaintiff argued that the medical director failed to set forth policies requiring that staff follow-up with the lab for cultures results and/or failed to train staff to do so. Counsel asked for $6.5 in damages.
We argued that our doctors relied on hospital policy requiring that the lab CALL with positive culture results. We further argued that staff need not be trained to follow-up given hospital policy and that a policy was not required at the dialysis center given the hospital’s policy. Finally, we argued that even had plaintiff been admitted to the hospital days earlier the outcome would have been the same. More specifically, plaintiff had a severely calcified mitral valve negating the likelihood that antibiotics alone would have cleared the mitral valve vegetation and necessitating valve replacement surgery for which plaintiff was never a viable candidate.
The jury returned with a defendant’s verdict, clearing the director of liability on proximate cause.