Pretzel & Stouffer

Jury Victory for Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Pretzel & Stouffer Partners, Charles Redden and Tom Lang, recently achieved a jury verdict in favor of four defendant physicians (two emergency medicine specialists and two internal medicine specialists) and Northwestern Memorial Hospital following a 2 ½ week trial.

Plaintiff was a 57 year old lawyer who attended his firm’s holiday party and became severely intoxicated. After the party, he attempted to walk home. As later described by bystanders, plaintiff stumbled and fell on the hood of a taxicab, ending up on the ground. He was taken to the NMH Emergency Department where he was diagnosed with severe alcohol intoxication and atrial fibrillation of the heart. The plaintiff was admitted to the Hospital for three days and received anticoagulation therapy. Soon after discharge from the hospital, the plaintiff suffered a large bilateral frontal intracerebral hematoma. Plaintiff claimed that he suffered significant brain damage in his frontal lobes, resulting in executive level deficits, changes in mood and behavior, and an inability to continue working as an attorney.

At trial, Plaintiff claimed that the defendants failed to order a head CT, and failed to rule out brain injury before ordering the anticoagulation. The defendant Attending and Resident physicians all testified that there was no history or report of trauma, nor was there any other indication for a head CT, based on the patient’s presentation. Any questionable neurologic findings resolved once the patient became sober, and were all consistent with the patient’s severe alcohol intoxication. Defendants further argued, through their neurologist expert, that the trauma to plaintiff’s frontal lobes occurred before he was brought to the defendant hospital for treatment, based on the findings in subsequent CT films. Because injuries to the frontal lobes are largely “silent”, plaintiff did not manifest any signs or symptoms during the neurologic and physical examinations performed.

After deliberating for approximately 3 ½ hours, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of all four defendants and the defendant hospital, finding them not liable for any damages.

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