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Jury returns $5.68 million verdict in Bloomington medical malpractice case

The Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyers at Garau Germano Hanley & Pennington, P.C. have obtained a $5.68 million jury verdict in a case in which a North Vernon woman died as a result of medical malpractice.

Vickie Tatlock had been transferred from Seymour to Bloomington Hospital with an acute myocardial infarction. She was taken immediately to the cardiac catheterization lab, where the Dr. James Faris performed a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty. During the performance of the angioplasty, Dr. Faris perforated a small coronary artery. The perforation was a recognized risk of the procedure, but it required close follow-up because it created a heightened risk for cardiac tamponade.

Cardiac tamponade occurs when blood fills the pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart) placing pressure on the heart and causing it to lose its ability to function efficiently. Untreated cardiac tamponade will lead to the patient's death.

About an hour after Ms. Tatlock left the cath lab, her blood pressures began to drop, a sign of tamponade. Dr. Faris was notified of the decrease in blood pressure at 2 a.m. At that time, Dr. Faris knew that he was going to be going into the cath lab shortly to treat another patient with an acute MI, but he took no steps to get another physician to come in and care for Ms. Tatlock. At 2:38 a.m., Dr. Faris went into the cath lab with his other patient, leaving Ms. Tatlock with no physician. Over the next hour and 20 minutes, Ms. Tatlock's condition steadily deteriorated. She coded at 4 a.m., about the time that physicians had finally arrived to care for her.

The physicians relieved the tamponade by draining the blood from the pericardium (pericardiocentesis), and Ms. Tatlock's heart resumed functioning, but she was brain dead as a result of the oxygen deprivation she had suffered. Her family made the decision to remove her from life support two days later and she died at age 49.

At trial, all witnesses, including Dr. Faris, conceded that Dr. Faris needed to take action as soon as possible after 2 a.m. to get a physician in to the hospital who could perform an echocardiogram to confirm the tamponade and a pericardiocentesis to relieve the tamponade. There was no mention in the records of any efforts by Dr. Faris to do so until 3:15 a.m. Nurse from Bloomington Hospital testified that they had repeatedly tried to get Dr. Faris to take prompt action to get someone in to care for Ms. Tatlock, but that they had been rebuffed by Dr. Faris.

Ms. Tatlock's husband died a little less than 5 years after she did, and a little more than four years before the case was tried. The case was pursued on behalf of Ms. Tatlock's surviving son as personal representative of his father's estate. Plaintiff black boarded around $3.9 million for the deceased husband's loss of loss of love care and affection through the date of his death. The jury came back in 2 1/2 hours with a $5.68 million verdict against Dr. Faris, and found in favor of the hospital which was also named as a defendant.

(The verdict was subsequently reduced to $1.25 million as required by the terms of the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act. That law limits the damages available in a medical malpractice action to a maximum of $1.25 million. The limitation on damages has been upheld as constitutional by the Indiana Supreme Court.)

The case was tried by Jerry Garau and Deborah Pennington of the Indianapolis medical malpractice firm of Garau Germano Hanley & Pennington, P.C.

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