Jury Verdict Upheld - Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp


[This is a case result update. Review the original case result here: $1.6 Million Jury Verdict for Patient Who Suffered a Seizure and Traumatic Brain Injury in Missed Diagnosis Case]

Our client was suffering from nausea and abdominal pain for several days and went to the Sentara Leigh Hospital ER in the late afternoon of March 16, 2017. The ER doctor ordered a blood test and a CT scan of her abdomen and released our client shortly after midnight. She was given no actual new diagnosis but the ER doctor provided our client instructions for her to follow up with her PCP and to see a gastroenterologist for her abdominal pain.

In fact, our client was suffering from hyponatremia, which is a medical condition caused by abnormally low sodium in the body, and the ER blood test denoted a low sodium result of 122  (the normal range should be at least 133) but no medical intervention occurred, no patient instructions covered hyponatremia, despite the serious potential consequences of hyponatremia, including brain herniation, seizure, coma or even death.

Virginia medical regulations require that the ER physician record all pertinent diagnoses and patient instructions, but the ER doctor later, in litigation, claimed she gave such instructions “verbally” to our client.

On March 28th, approximately 11 days after she left the emergency room without being diagnosed, our client was discovered neurologically unconscious by her husband, on the floor of their kitchen, having suffered a seizure in her home. The rescue squad took her back ER where the earlier blood test was done, and now revealed her sodium was 114 which is categorized as “profound hyponatremia.”

She was transferred to a level 1 trauma hospital and doctors confirmed profound hyponatremia and that she had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She was hospitalized for 11 days and then transferred to a rehabilitation facility. She had to relearn to walk, talk and form words, and how to handle her daily living. She suffers memory loss and could not recall any details of the first ER visit where the ER doctor claimed to have “verbally” diagnosed her low sodium condition.

All doctors, however, admitted our client suffered a traumatic brain injury.

The 2021 Virginia Beach Circuit Court trial lasted eight days and our client’s ER medical experts testified the original ER “missed the diagnosis” of hyponatremia. The ER doctor’s medical experts claimed she verbally told our client of her low sodium and contested she ever suffered a “seizure” caused by low sodium.

The jury deliberated over eight hours before returning a $1.6 million verdict in October 2021. Judge Mahan held hearings on the ER doctor’s motions for a new trial and denied each such argument.

The ER doctor and group appealed the jury verdict to the Virginia  Court of Appeals during the first month that the Virginia appeals court was authorized to hear civil appeals, in January 2022.

In February 2023, Judge Athey of the Virginia Court of Appeals issued a three-judge unanimous 26-page opinion rejecting the appeal and finding no merit to the 10 grounds for appeal raised by the ER doctor.  The Court of Appeals accordingly confirmed the jury verdict was proper under Virginia law. The Court’s written decision can be found here: Record No. 0121221.