Jaw-dropping, eye-popping malpractice suits in 2018

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published November 29, 2018

Key Takeaways

Malpractice—it’s the only suit that takes you to the cleaners.

For most physicians in the United States, being sued for medical malpractice is not a matter of if but when, according to the American Medical Association. More than one-third of US physicians (34%) have been slapped with a suit, the association reported.

Among all the cases of medical malpractice this year, you’ve most likely heard about the surgeon who posted videos of herself dancing during operations. But here are a few other jaw-dropping lawsuits you might not have heard about.

Patient sues hospital for reviving her

Jamie Sams, an author of spiritualist books, sued Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Santa Fe, NM, claiming that the hospital’s emergency staff revived her despite her double “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order after she went into cardiac arrest during a visit in 2016.

“Plaintiff Sams was wearing a purple bracelet issued by the hospital and labeled ‘DNR,’” according to the lawsuit, which was obtained by the Albuquerque Journal.

Sams is also suing because she was given Dilaudid®, even though she alerted the emergency staff that she was allergic to it, according to the suit. The allergic reaction caused her cardiac arrest. “As a result of being revived, [Sams] continues to experience severe pain, disability and limitations and further, will incur extensive expenses throughout the remainder of her life.” She is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

MRI won’t fly for big guy

A patient who claimed that he was sent home from Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Portland, OR, because he was too large to fit inside the MRI scanner has slapped the hospital with a $7 million lawsuit for medical negligence, according to the Portland Business Journal.

Lawrence Jackson went to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center with complaints of mid-to-lower back pain, fever, chills, and elevated pulse and blood pressure levels. The physician who treated him ordered an MRI but realized that Jackson wouldn’t fit into the scanner. So, the physician sent him home, Jackson claimed in his suit.

Six days later, an ambulance brought Jackson to the hospital’s emergency department because his legs had given out, causing him to fall that morning. The same physician who had seen Jackson before suspected an infection, and a neurologist confirmed that Jackson was unable to move his legs, according to the lawsuit. Jackson was then transferred to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, where he received an MRI. He was diagnosed with a low thoracic epidural abscess and taken into emergency surgery.

In his lawsuit filed in June, Jackson claimed that Providence St. Vincent was negligent by not transferring him on his first visit to another hospital with a larger MRI machine. Jackson now has permanent paraplegia and owes $1 million in medical bills, according to the suit, which is still in litigation.

Woman sues doctor who’s her secret sperm donor father

Thirty-six-year-old Kelli Rowlette sued reproductive specialist (and, it turns out, her biological father) Gerald E. Mortimer, MD, Idaho Falls, ID, for using his own sperm to fertilize her mother without informing either parent. Rowlette’s suit—which alleged medical negligence, battery, and fraud—claimed that Dr. Mortimer falsely told her parents that he had used a mixture of her father’s sperm and that of matching donors to inseminate her mother, when he had actually used his own.

Rowlette found out about the sperm switcheroo after submitting her DNA to Ancestry.com, only to discover that she was the biological daughter the fertility specialist.

Surprisingly, when the case went to court in October 2017, the judge dismissed Rowlette as a plaintiff because she had never actually been Dr. Mortimer’s patient. But the judge did allow Rowlette’s parents, who were also plaintiffs in the suit, to continue their medical malpractice claim against Dr. Mortimer.

Doctor sues patient for $1M for bad Yelp review

This isn’t a medical malpractice suit, but it’s still an instructive legal case.

Joon Song, MD, PhD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in New York, NY, turned the tables on a former patient who posted negative reviews online. Dr. Song is suing the patient, Michelle Levine, for $1 million in damages for posting “false and defamatory statements” on online review sites like Yelp, ZocDoc, RateMDs, and others.

The case stems from Levine’s annual visit to Dr. Song’s office, which resulted in additional ultrasound testing that’s not part of the annual exam. “I was sent a bill for almost an additional $500 for my annual checkup,” Levine wrote in a review on Yelp.com. “[N]ow they want me to cough up an extra $500 for services I didn’t even need?” In the same review, she used statements such as, “false medical diagnosis,” “MEDICAL FRAUD,” “SCAM OFFICE.”

Dr. Song’s suit argues that Levine’s comments weren’t made as opinions but as statements of fact. “These statements were made maliciously and willfully, and were intended to cause harm to [Dr. Song’s] business and reputation,” according to the suit.

The case is headed to court in early 2019.

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