Rikard & Protopapas LLC settles medical malpractice case against Dorn VA hospital for $700,000

Published by RP Legal Group
February 11, 2018

Rikard & Protopapas LLC recently settled a medical malpractice wrongful death case against the Dorn VA hospital for $700,000.

The case involved allegations against the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia and asserted that the Dorn VA committed a series of errors that led to the prolonged suffering and eventual death of the Dorn VA’s patient.

The patient’s widow, June Williams, sued the U.S. government following the April 2012 death of her husband, Morris Williams. The Dorn VA did not admit wrongdoing in settling the case March 3.

Williams’ attorney, Robert Rikard of Rikard & Protopapas in Columbia, alleged that serious mistakes that caused the injury in the case were so obvious that they should have been caught, and Mr. Williams would have survived.

According to the suit, Morris Williams, who had a history of cardiac issues, entered the Dorn VA complaining of lightheadedness and pain so severe it was causing nausea and vomiting. He died several days later because of an alleged “combination of missteps, misdiagnosis, improper equipment, failure to act, and failure to care for a patient that defies explanation,” According to Robert Rikard of Rikard & Protopapas.

A CAT scan of his pelvis and abdomen was ordered after Williams was admitted, but only his abdomen was scanned, according to the suit, which notes that the Dorn VA described the oversight as a “SNAFU in CT Order.”

Then a radiologist at the hospital allegedly failed to notice Williams’ cardiac stent had shifted, resulting in what is known as an endoleak, which placed enormous pressure on his heart and led to an enlarged, leaking aneurysm.

Williams was discharged on the afternoon of his arrival, but he returned hours later with severe pain and vomiting. The leak had caused an aortic aneurysm rupture – a life-threatening condition that required immediate treatment. Rather than transfer Mr. Williams to a facility that could treat his condition, Mr. Williams was made to wait for five hours before being seen by a two-member surgical consult team.

They decided to wait a day and let a radiologist see Williams. The physician in charge went on vacation and did not transfer care, and three more days passed before the radiologist visited the hospital. During the wait, Mr. Williams worsening cardiac condition was not treated, and he continued to complain of severe pain.

When the radiologist finally arrived, Williams was “thrashing around in bed with severe, sharp pain in his abdomen, with vomiting, and unbearable pain,” Rikard wrote in a court filing in the case.

The radiologist determined that Williams needed emergency surgery – care that he required four days earlier – but the Dorn VA “did not have the necessary equipment to save [his] life” and Williams had become too unstable to transfer to another hospital, Rikard wrote.

“After the surgery, Mr. Williams experienced a complicated and rough hospital course,” he added. “He suffered compromised heart function, cardiac arrest, brain injury, wound vac, blood transfusions, suffered severe blood loss, and a host of other medical problems.”

Williams was removed from life support several days after the botched surgery, according to Rikard. The tragedy is that there was a “great likelihood” that Williams would have survived if he’d been transferred from the Dorn VA and operated on sooner.

The suit settled during discovery before Rikard deposed the government’s experts or the physicians who treated Williams.

“We never got to hear what their defense was going to be … but I thought the case was indefensible,” he said.

If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, please call us at 803-978-6111