Robert H. Bouse, Jr. and Lynne B. Malone, recently tried a case that involved a wrongful death claim by the family of a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge. The suit alleged that the judge should have been admitted to the hospital by the defendant, an emergency room physician. The judge had come to the ER complaining of ear pain, but had positive signs of pneumonia for which he was being treated by another provider. Plaintiffs alleged that, because of a worsening condition in the lungs shown on radiology studies, the judge should have been admitted to the hospital and a work-up started. Instead, he was discharged and told to follow up within a week to ten days.
When the judge returned to his doctor for a routine follow up, he was admitted immediately to the hospital. There the doctors could not determine why his condition was worsening. A few days later, a rheumatologist was consulted and gave a tentative diagnosis of Wegener's Granulomatosis (inflammation of the small blood vessels in the lungs and kidneys). Sadly, the judge died from that extremely rare disease. Plaintiffs contended that, had he been admitted on the initial visit to the ER, the judge would have been diagnosed sooner and survived. Solid expert testimony on behalf of the defendant, however, explained that an admission on the initial visit would have made no difference in the ultimate outcome.
After closing arguments, the jury deliberated for 45 minutes before returning a defense verdict.
Despite the rarity of med mal verdicts in Baltimore City, Bob and Lynne's victory is even that much more impressive in that the Court had previously denied a motion to remove the case to a different venue, lest the defendant be forced to try the case in the very courthouse where the judge worked.