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Gastrostomy Tube Wrongful Death Case

Seven-figure recovery for the parents of a Beaver County child who suffered brain injury and died as a result of an air embolus that occurred during placement of a gastrostomy tube. Outside air is never supposed to enter tubes used during surgery.

This child was born with several congenital problems in her digestive tract, and they were operating on her to try to insert a feeding tube (gastrostomy) when the cardiac arrest occurred. Sometimes a cardiac arrest can occur due to no one's fault, so the challenge for us was to prove that this cardiac arrest happened as a result of some mistake by the hospital staff. This became quite a challenge because the hospital records did not say what caused the child's cardiac arrest. Therefore, we hired our own team of experts to review all of the records.

After very careful study, they concluded that the only logical explanation for the child's sudden cardiac arrest was that air must have entered an IV line or other tube attached to the patient. While we could not explain exactly "how" the air got into the line, that did not matter because we could still prove our case under a legal term called res ipsa loquitur. That is a Latin phrase, which means "The thing speaks for itself," and it means that you can win the case just by showing that something normally would not happen unless someone was careless even though you cannot explain exactly how it happened. In this case, even the hospital agreed that outside air is never supposed to get inside a line and, therefore, if that happened, they were at fault. However, the hospital claimed that air actually never did get into the line. We disagreed, and our proof was strong enough to induce the hospital to settle this case.

Sadly, the child went on to die about a year after the cardiac arrest and resulting brain damage. One of the challenges in the case that we faced is that even without this cardiac arrest and brain damage, this child likely had a shortened life expectancy because of her other problems. Nevertheless, the parents were entitled to be compensated for the loss of their child.

Cases involving the death of a young child, oddly enough, present problems in trying to prove damages. For example, one of the main elements of damages in most death cases is a claim for future wages that a person would have earned. However, when you are talking about an infant with "no track record" of work or no school record from which to project what their career path might have been, it is very speculative to talk about future earnings, and that is something the defense always emphasizes. If the child is only a few months old when he or she dies, strange as it may sound, the defense will suggest that the impact on the parents, significant as it may be, is not as significant as that experienced by parents who have a child and bond with him or her for 10 to 15 years. We dispute that argument every time and emphasize that the loss of any child, however old, is significant to a parent.

 

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