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Surviving Family Members Launch Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit Against Texas Arlington Memorial

surgeons examine x-rays

On July 6, 2015, the surviving family members of a Dallas-area woman initiated a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital they claim botched the review and evaluation of the deceased’s presenting symptoms – resulting in her rapid and untimely death.

According to the hospital malpractice complaint, which was filed in Dallas County, the 32-year old decedent suffered a seizure on the morning of December 14, 2013. She was rushed to Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital after her husband frantically dialed 911, and was placed under a CT scan to monitor for any neurological abnormalities.

Inexplicably, the victim was diagnosed with a sinus infection and migraine – and discharged on the same day. However, the family members assert that the results of the CT scan in fact show the presence of bleeding on the brain, and a basic understanding of diagnostic imaging would have lead a reasonable practitioner to keep the victim for further testing, observation and treatment.

After her discharge, the decedent suffered a second seizure episode the same afternoon. She was again rushed via ambulance to a different hospital in the Fort Worth area. While en route, she suffered a third seizure – and subsequently developed irreversible brain damage.

She succumbed to her injuries the following day, leaving being a three-year old daughter and an eight-year old son. Her husband illuminated the family’s emotional turmoil in a statement to the media, remarking that he lost his “best friend at the drop of a hat. How do you pick up the pieces? It’s a day at a time, and it’s extremely difficult….”

Basics of medical malpractice in Texas

The state of Texas maintains one of the most impenetrable medical malpractice statutes in the United States – including a heightened burden of proof on the plaintiff claiming hospital or doctor negligence, and specific limitations on the amount of compensation the plaintiff can recover. The obstacles, implemented under the auspices of nationwide tort reform efforts, include a higher evidentiary standard known as “conscious indifference,” which requires the plaintiff to prove that a provider implemented some level of purposeful intent in assigning irrelevance to certain symptoms or warning signs described by the patient.

This standard is higher than the traditional negligence threshold, which requires the plaintiff to show that the provider owed a duty of care to the patient and failed to exercise reasonable precautions to meet that duty – resulting in harm or death.

Here, counsel for the plaintiffs asserts that the “conscious indifference” standard should not be difficult to meet, stating that “[a]nyone can look at that film and see there’s blood on the film. It makes you think nobody looked at it, number one. Number two, the symptoms she had in the emergency room, she should have never been sent out the door….”

Representatives for the hospital have declined to comment on the alleged misdiagnosis, citing the pending litigation.

Under the current medical malpractice laws, claims must be filed within two years of the alleged incident, and plaintiffs are limited to $250,000 in non-economic damages – including compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or loss of consortium.

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