$950,000 Settlement for Death of 70 Year Old Man Due to Hospital Error

A 70 year old man underwent a lung decortication. He remained in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit for about a week and was then transferred to a telemetry floor. Three days later, he was found in his room unresponsive and with no pulse or spontaneous breathing. EKG strips in the records showed that his cardiac arrest began at 11:25 a.m. However, the Code Blue Flow Chart shows that the resuscitation effort did not begin until 11:34 a.m. The record does not contain any explanation for this nine minute delay. A Code Blue was called and he was eventually resuscitated and then moved to the ICU. His condition deteriorated, however, and he eventually died ten days later, without regaining consciousness. An autopsy showed that he had suffered extensive acute anoxic changes to multiple organs.

The family was given conflicting information as to what occurred at the time of the cardiac arrest. Initially they were told by one of his treating physicians that the heart monitor alarm had failed to sound and that no one knew how long he had been in cardiac arrest before he was found.However, after an investigation was conducted by the hospital, the family was told:

  • All systems were checked and found to be in perfect order.
  • Alarms went off as appropriate.
  • The nurse on duty was in the medicine room and did not hear the alarm.
  • A Nurse's Aide in an adjoining wing as "not trained" for bell recognition.

The Plaintiff expected the evidence to show that the heart monitor alarm did in fact sound when the cardiac arrest started; that the volume of the alarm could be changed by anyone from the Nurse's Station; that the volume of the alarm for Mr. Sundin had been lowered to a level at which the alarm could not be easily heard; that the hospital did not then have a procedure or policy for setting and maintaining the volume of the heart monitor alarms at a level at which they could be heard at all times.

The Plaintiff's experts would have testified that there was about a nine minute delay between the cardiac arrest and the start of resuscitation efforts, and that if the medical staff at St. Vincent Hospital had responded reasonably promptly to the cardiac arrest when the alarm first sounded, the decedent could have been resuscitated in a timely manner and that he would have made a full and uneventful recovery from his lung surgery.

The defendants' experts were prepared to testify that at most, there appeared to be approximately a two minute delay from when the cardiac arrest started to the time chest compressions were started based upon the EKG strips. The defendants' experts were also going to testify that the decedent was in precarious health prior to his surgery and immediately after surgery with severe coronary artery disease and that his overall status was poor and his life expectancy appeared extremely limited prior to the date of the incident.

The case was settled before trial for $950,000.