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$144 Million Verdict for Heart Damage Caused by Emergency Room Oversight

Counsel Financial

On January 26, 2009, Plaintiff Deborah Sohl, 47, presented to the emergency room of A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, NY, complaining of severe chest pain which radiated to her left side, including her left arm, neck and jaw. She also reported feeling nauseous. An EKG was performed and the results were abnormal.

Despite traditional indications of a heart attack or other serious problem with her heart, the hospital held Plaintiff for 24 hours for observation without ordering a cardiologist to examine her. In fact, Plaintiff’s family had to arrange for an outside cardiologist to come to the hospital to evaluate her. After examining Plaintiff, her cardiologist recommended that Plaintiff immediately be transferred to Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York for urgent heart treatment.

Upon arrival at Wilson Hospital, it was determined Plaintiff was suffering a myocardial infarction. Plaintiff received treatment at the cardiac catheterization laboratory. There was already severe damage to her heart, however, due to the delay in treatment. Plaintiff sued A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital and her healthcare network, seeking damages for past and future medical expenses and pain and suffering.

At trial, Plaintiff argued that the symptoms she exhibited while at the Defendant’s ER should have prompted doctors to order a consultation from a cardiologist. Their failure to do so was a departure from the acceptable standard of care, which led to permanent damage to Plaintiff’s heart. Plaintiff’s counsel relied, in part, upon a videotaped catheterization from Wilson Hospital, which showed her heart suffered necrosis prior to the appropriate intervention.

Plaintiff further claimed that as a result of the delay in appropriate treatment, her heart would now require treatment for her lifetime, including installation of a defibrillator, a mechanical pumping assistant and will eventually require a heart transplant. She claimed that now she cannot perform tasks that require anything more than a minimal amount of effort or stamina. She also claimed she could not work, exercise, or train horses as she used to do.

After nearly two weeks of trial, the jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiff in the amount of $144,642,039. Of the award, approximately $350,000 was for past and future lost earnings, $18 Million was for past and future pain and suffering, and $126 Million was medical costs, more than half of which was related to the costs of Plaintiff’s mechanical heart maintenance and the anticipated heart replacement surgery.
VERDICT: $144,642,039
VENUE: Supreme Court, Otsego County, New York

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