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Injuries: wrongful death
The plaintiff, a 58 year old man, was involved in a single-vehicle accident in which he sustained several injuries, including a right femoral fracture. None of his injuries was life-threatening. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was stabilized and admitted for surgery to his leg.
Before surgery, the next morning, the plaintiff was transported to the pre-operative holding area. Assessment revealed him to be alert and following commands. He demonstrated good breath sounds bilaterally, was fully oxygenated, and was in no respiratory distress. He was transported to the operating room and within two minutes of being placed on an anesthesia machine, respiratory difficulty was documented. Within nine minutes, there was a notable decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation. Full cardio-pulmonary resuscitation efforts were initiated within 12 minutes. All efforts to resuscitate the plaintiff were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy revealed the cause of death to be bilateral tension pneumothoraces due to a malfunction of the anesthesia machine. The hospital's investigation revealed that the exhalation valve on the anesthesia machine failed, allowing anesthesia gasses to enter the plaintiff without escaping.
Plaintiff’s counsel alleged that the treating anesthesiologist breached the standard of care in failing to adequately test the anesthesia machine before use, in failing to appropriately monitor the plaintiff as he was being placed under anesthesia, and in failing to immediately respond to obvious indications the anesthesia machine was malfunctioning.
Settlement was reached after several months of negotiations.