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Special Edition Legal Case Study

Healthcare Professionals and Medical Malpractice: A Case Study with Risk Management Strategies

Medical malpractice claims can be asserted against any healthcare provider. Although there may be a perception that physicians are held responsible for the majority of lawsuits, the reality is that healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, pharmacists and counselors are more frequently finding themselves defending the care they provide.

Physical Therapist Edition

Case Study: Improper treatment resulting in patient death

The patient (plaintiff) was a 68-year old chronically ill female with a history of diabetes, severe ankylosing spondylitis, neuropathy, myopathy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity and falls. The physical therapist and the defendant physical therapist assistant (PTA) were employed by a home health agency and were providing home based physical therapy care to the patient following a recent hospitalization. Read the Full Case with Risk Management Recommendations


Read Previous Issues of the HPSO Special Edition Legal Case Study: Physical Therapist Edition

Pharmacist Edition

Case Study: Alleged wrongful death resulting from the failure to counsel the decedent on the dangers of concurrently taking Flomax, Diltiazem and Lexapro

The decedent patient (plaintiff) was a 48 year old male who was well known to the defendant pharmacist as a multiyear customer of his pharmacy business. The patient had a history of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension and was a smoker. He was taking Diltiazem for hypertension and Lexapro for anxiety and depression. He presented with a prescription for Flomax to treat newly diagnosed urinary symptoms related to prostate enlargement. Read the Full Case with Risk Management Recommendations


Read Previous Issues of the HPSO Special Edition Legal Case Study: Pharmacist Edition

Counselor Edition

Case Study: Alleged breach of confidentiality, incorrect diagnosis and alienation of affection resulting in emotional distress, loss of his marriage and loss of his relationships with his children

The defendant counselor identified that the wife and children were at risk and she recommended to the wife that she leave the marital home to live with her parents who were located several hours away. The defendant counselor reported the husband's behavior as child abuse in compliance with state child protection regulations. The wife left the marital home with the children and subsequently filed for divorce and sole custody of the children due to the husband's emotional and physical abuse in the family. Read the Full Case with Risk Management Recommendations


Read Previous Issues of the HPSO Special Edition Legal Case Study: Counselors Edition

September 2008 Legal Case Study

Man Claims No Physical Therapy Personnel Were Nearby When Electrical Stimulation Machine Caused Electrical Shock - $50,000 Settlement With Machine Manufacturer - $1.46 Million Verdict Against Others.

The plaintiff, age forty-seven, was undergoing physical therapy in June 2002 with the use of an electrical stimulation machine. The machine had an emergency stop cable attached, which allowed a patient to quickly stop it in an emergency. During the plaintiff’s session, the physical therapist left him unattended. While the therapist was away the plaintiff believed he experienced an electrical shock. In a panic, he shouted for one or two minutes, but no one responded. When the physical therapist finally entered the room the plaintiff was partially unresponsive. The plaintiff had undergone the same treatment without difficulty three days earlier.

The plaintiff alleged post-traumatic stress disorder and pain disorder, which resulted from his emotional conversion disorder. The plaintiff claimed that a therapist should have remained within audible range of him at all times and if that had been done he would have been heard. The plaintiff also alleged that the clinic failed to provide him with the emergency stop cable.

The defendants contended that the physical therapist’s aide and physical therapist were within audible range and came to the plaintiffs aide immediately. The clinic claimed that it was not it policy to provide the emergency stop cable because the machine had multiple built-in safety redundancies which would prevent it from emitting excess electrical currents. The clinic also claimed that the cable was there and was plugged in. The defendants also claimed that there were no neurological findings of any injury.

According to a published account, the manufacturer of the electrical stimulation machine settled for $50,000 prior to trial. A jury returned a $1,461,532 verdict against all the defendants. Post-trial motions were pending.

With permission from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts; Lewis Laska, Editor, 901 Church St., Nashville, TN 37203-3411, 1-800-298-6288.


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