Another medical malpractice win for the defense, this time in Cedar City in Judge Paul Lyman’s courtroom on March 7th.
This was a delay-in-diagnosis-of-appendicitis claim brought by Felicia Phillips against Dr. Gerald K. Rowland, an emergency medicine specialist.. The 19-year old plaintiff presented to IHC Valley View Medical Center with complaints of abdominal pain; she was seen by Dr. Rowland in the emergency department who diagnosed gastroenteritis and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Apparently, the plaintiff did not come back as instructed for continuing pain until two days later. By then, there was a ruptured appendix and abscess requiring surgery. Later on, she developed a bowel obstruction (I presume from adhesions) and required another surgery.
The defense emergency medicine expert was Dr. Kenneth Bramwell from Boise, now Phoenix. Plaintiff’s expert was Dr. Michael Smolens from Los Angeles. The defense also used Dr. Daniel Vargo (a general surgeon), on the causation issue.
This was a three-day trial. After only forty minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a 6-2 verdict in favor of the defendant. Defense counsel was medical malpractice attorney Vaun Hall; for the plaintiff was medical malpractice lawyer Rhett Lunceford. The insurance carrier was UMIA.
Phillips v. Rowland, #100500723 (Fifth District Court for Iron County).
FJC: Having defended half a dozen similar case when I practiced medical malpractice law, I note that the diagnosis of the etiology of lower abdominal pain can be very tricky, especially so in females of reproductive age. There’s a laundry list of things that it could be, and one needs to have a certain level of suspicion before calling in a surgeon. In other words, it seems surprisingly common (to a lay person) for a careful physician to misdiagnose an inflamed appendix– so these are not simple malpractice cases for a plaintiff’s counsel to win.
This recent story from the New York Times is enlightening on the subject of appendicitis.