The firm successfully defended a local cardiologist at jury trial in the Lake Superior Court (Judge John R. Pera), which culminated in a defense verdict on December 10, 2018. The case involved the death of a 54 year old man who underwent a cardiac stress test for recurrent chest pain. The patient, Houser, had been taking Depakote for several years, which was prescribed by his psychiatrist for a mood disorder, including anxiety and depression. He also had a documented history of panic attacks. The hospital records were equivocal as to whether Mr. Houser had a history of seizures. After stepping off the cardiac treadmill, Houser began exhibiting odd movements with his arms and legs, and complained of pain in his back. The testing cardiologist concluded that Houser was having a panic attack. Along with a cardiac stress technician, the doctor encouraged the patient to calm down and he continued to assess the patient’s heart rate and rhythms on the cardiac monitor. Although Houser’s heart rate came down initially, he continued to be restless and anxious, and he suddenly collapsed. A Code Blue was called, and the cardiologist and code team worked on the patient for well over an hour but were unable to revive him. Plaintiff’s theory was that the doctor failed to recognize and properly treat a sustained seizure, which resulted in muscle breakdown and a release of enzymes causing fatal cardiac rhythms. The defense countered with evidence that Mr. Houser had died of cardiac arrhythmia resulting from a narrowing of the right coronary artery together with myocardial ischemia.
The jury deliberated approximately two hours before returning a verdict in favor of the cardiologist.