Mark Smith and Amy Mohan Secure Two Defense Verdicts in Two Trials Two Weeks Apart

SRVH attorneys Mark Smith and Amy Mohan had a very busy but successful August and September, prevailing in two separate trials involving health care liability claims in Maury County and Coffee County Circuit Courts.

Alleged Emergency Medicine Malpractice

On August 27, 2021, Amy and Mark obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful death case against their client, an emergency medicine physician. In that case, a 23-year-old man presented to the ER complaining of a bad headache. He reported a long history of migraines. After conducting an examination, the doctor discharged the patient with instructions to follow up with his primary care provider and neurologist. The patient did not do so. Nine days later, the patient returned to the ER nine days and was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage. He was hospitalized but died following an unsuccessful procedure. The decedent’s father sued the ER doctor, alleging that he breached the standard of care by not ordering a non-contrast brain CT. The plaintiff claimed a CT scan would have detected a sentinel bleed.

During the nine-day trial in Maury County Circuit Court, Amy and Mark established that the physician complied with the standard of care and also demonstrated that the patient had not complied with discharge instructions. The jury returned a unanimous verdict for the ER physician after four hours of deliberation. In a sign of the times, six alternate jurors were impaneled due to COVID concerns.

Alleged Hospital and Nursing Malpractice

The second trial, also alleging wrongful death, involved a man in his early 50s who presented to a small community hospital in Coffee County. The patient was admitted for evaluation and treatment of kidney stones. The treating physician ordered narcotics via a patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump—equipment that delivers pain medication when the patient presses a button—to allow the patient to self-administer morphine. The next morning, the patient’s wife reported that he was not breathing. He was resuscitated but died several days later.

Discovery showed that the patient’s widow had pressed the PCA button more than 20 times. The widow’s allegations against the hospital include that she was not properly educated on the use of the pump, that her husband was not adequately monitored, and that one of the nursing notes was fraudulent. Amy and Mark elicited proof at trial showing that the hospital complied with the standard of care and that the patient’s widow was at fault.

On September 29, 2021, the jury deliberated for just over three hours, ultimately concluding that the hospital was not liable for the patient’s death. This was the second trial of this case, which was remanded after the Tennessee Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s post-judgment additur in the first trial.