January 2018 

Chicago: Ries-Buntain and Porta Successfully Defend Hospital Against $4M Wrongful Death Negligence Claim

In January 2018, HPS attorneys Jennifer Ries-Buntain and Daria Porta won a defense verdict for a Joliet-area hospital client. In the case, the plaintiff alleged that the hospital’s nurses failed to first request then go up the chain of command to obtain an order for an anticoagulant to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in a patient after a complex orthopedic surgery in 2010. One week later, the 48-year-old patient died as a result of a DVT and pulmonary embolism.

The plaintiff alleged that according to hospital guidelines it was the responsibility of the hospital’s nurses, who had completed a post-operative DVT risk assessment on the patient that ranked him at the “highest risk” for DVT, to call the orthopedic surgeon for an order for an anticoagulant. Plaintiff also alleged that the hospital was responsible on an apparent agency theory for the conduct of co-defendant surgeon who failed to order the anticoagulant.

The hospital argued that its DVT risk assessment tool was faulty, the guideline did not apply, and that there was no obligation to ensure an anticoagulant because the surgeon had considered the risks and decided to use mechanical DVT prophylaxis instead. The defense further argued that the surgeon was not the apparent agent of the hospital and that the providers did not cause the death of the patient.

At the end of the two-and-a-half week trial, the plaintiff widow sought nearly $4,000,000 in damages. The jury deliberated for approximately an hour and a half, agreed with the defense, and returned a “not guilty” verdict in favor of all defendants.