Our client, a 39 year old woman, was at the beach when she began experiencing intermittent numbness on the left side of her face and episodic periods of slurred speech. She went home and when the symptoms persisted she went to a local hospital emergency room that was a certified primary stroke center. As such the hospital was equipped to treat stroke patients 24 hours a day 7 days a week and had previously received the gold seal of approval by the joint commission (an independent health/safety monitoring organization) for meeting consistently high national standard stroke care. The hospital advertised that its stroke treatment was sophisticated and followed advanced treatment protocols which ensured expeditious stroke care since “seconds count – time loss is brain loss”.
Upon arrival to the emergency room, at approximately 7pm, the triage nurse, identified our client as a potential stroke patient, which should have triggered implementation of the stroke protocols. No doctor spoke to, examined, or evaluated our client until 7:30am the next morning. The nurse’s notes documented our clients elderly parents repeatedly were asking when their daughter would be seen. The emergency room doctor who finally did evaluate our client the next morning considered a stroke to be the most likely diagnosis and ordered the patient to be seen by a neurologist and a hospitalist for admission. It took over 3 additional hours for these consultations to occur and the neurology consult was done by video teleconferencing rather than a face-to-face neurologic examination. It was clear to all the physicians that our client was having or had had a stroke. Our client remained in the ER department, awaiting admission, with no treatment administered or stroke care initiated for the remainder of the day. At approximately 7pm, the family called a friend who worked as a nurse in another department in the hospital and advised her of what was occurring. This nurse left her post and came down to the ER department. She literally grabbed the patient’s chart and ran it up to the stroke treatment specialist on the floor directly above the ER. A physician ran down and upon evaluating our client realized that she was very close to becoming comatose due to the length of time her stroke had gone untreated. He personally made arrangements for our client to be transferred by helicopter to Jackson Memorial hospital. The doctors at JMH were fortunately able to save her life, but not to prevent permanent partial paralysis. Our client worked as an editor in the Village Voice, a very well known community newspaper in New York City. As a result of her disability and her extensive rehabilitative needs, she was forced to give up her job and life in NYC and has to remain in Miami where her family and close friends can participate in her daily care.
The hospital recognizing that its care was indefensible took advantage of the damage caps under Florida Medical Malpractice statute by essentially admitting liability. Under these caps the client’s pain and suffering were limited to $250,000. The remainder of the $4.5 million recovery obtained on her behalf was for the cost of her future rehabilitative and life care needs and loss of earnings. We are happy to report that the resources she needed to assist in her recovery along with her extremely hard work and dedication have resulted in great improvement to her condition and her quality of life.