Anesthesia medication malpractice and Texas expert requirements

 

Houston court of appeals enters opinion in favor of plaintiff

 
December 26, 2018

As a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney, I have handled numerous anesthesia cases.

The most common anesthesia malpractice cases involve patients under general anesthesia who experience respiratory or heart complications that aren’t managed properly by the anesthesia provider.

Frequently, the anesthesia provider in the operating room is a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) rather than a physician anesthesiologist. When something goes wrong, there’s often a frantic effort to get the anesthesiologist into the room.

After all, if these types of problems aren’t addressed and handled immediately, the patient can end up with a permanent brain injury (hypoxia or anoxia) or even death.

Other anesthesia medical malpractice cases involve errors in administering the powerful anesthetic medications.

The Addison case against The Methodist Hospital and others

On December 21, 2018, the Houston 14th Court of Appeals entered an opinion in favor of the patient in an anesthesia medication area case. The case is styled The Methodist Hospital, Methodist Health Centers, Baylor College of Medicine and Donald T. Donovan M.D. v. Cheryl Addison, Case No. 14-17-00917-CV. It’s on appeal from the 333rd District Court of Harris County, Texas, where the cause number is 2017-05760. 

The underlying facts leading to the medical malpractice lawsuit in this case involving The Methodist Hospital are interesting and frightening. The patient was in the holding area of the operating room suite when a student nurse came to the room to administer an anesthetic medication.

The student nurse meant to give the patient Versed (Midazolam), a sedative that is used to relax patients and make them sleepy before surgery. Instead, the student nurse made a mistake and gave the patient a powerful paralytic drug, Rocuronium.

According to the lawsuit petition, the patient quickly started having difficulty breathing and was soon unresponsive. Within minutes, her blood pressure skyrocketed to 207/120. The patient stopped breathing and the healthcare providers had to step in and use a bag and mask to help her breathe. When that still wasn’t enough, the patient had to be intubated. It’s frightening to learn that all of this happened while the patient was still awake.

The plaintiff alleges that she suffered various injuries because of this medication mistake, including hypoxic/an anoxic encephalopathy, which is a permanent brain injury.

Medical malpractice attorneys must secure expert testimony

Under Texas law, medical malpractice plaintiffs must produce an expert report from a physician early in the litigation. If the expert report is arguably deficient under the statute, the defendants can ask the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit. That’s exactly what the defendants in The Methodist Hospital case requested—and the defendants took it to the appellate court when they didn’t get the result they wanted.

To satisfy the requirements of Texas law, the plaintiff produced an expert report from a board certified anesthesiologist. Among other things, the anesthesiology expert was critical of the significant amount of time that elapsed before the healthcare provider team began resuscitative efforts after the improper injection of Rocuronium.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court that the plaintiffs’ expert reports adequately addressed the conduct of the Methodist defendants and Baylor College of Medicine.

The 14th Court of Appeals concluded that the plaintiffs’ expert reports as to Dr. Donovan were deficient by not adequately defining the standard of care (what should have been done) and how Dr. Donovan made a mistake.

Fortunately for the plaintiff, Texas law allows the trial court to grant a 30-day extension to cure any deficiency in the reports. The Texas Supreme Court has mandated that such an extension must be granted if the report’s deficiency is curable. The appellate opinion gives the plaintiff’s lawyer and the medical expert another bite at the apple to satisfy the court.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of poor medical, hospital, anesthesia, or surgical care, click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.

All consultations are free, and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.

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Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.

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