$13.5M Verdict After Patient’s Serious Brain Injury

An Ada County resident peered into the family bathroom and discovered that her husband, Carl B. Stiefel, lay on the floor confused and vomiting and complaining of a severe headache…medscape.com, ED Doc and Group Owe $13.5M After Patient’s Serious Brain Injury, Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA, March 2023


As Stiefel’s confusion worsened, his wife called for an ambulance. At this point, his primary ED doctor admitted him to the hospital for “benign positional vertigo.” The doctor also joined colleagues in suggesting that the patient might well be a candidate for an MRI.


But the transfer from the ED to the main hospital reportedly took at least 3 hours, during which time Stiefel’s condition deteriorated. At least 4 hours would pass before the patient was seen by still another doctor, as the plaintiffs later claimed. Finally, the scan was administered at about 5:50 PM, almost 12 hours since Stiefel had first arrived at the ED.


It showed that he had a torn artery in his neck and was experiencing a stroke. This was, clearly, a very different diagnosis from the one that his admitting doctor had entered into his notes.


A surgeon operated to repair the arterial tear, but the patient’s condition continued to worsen. Over the next 3 weeks, Stiefel went from the hospital to a local rehab facility, and back to the hospital with bacterial meningitis. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with “an irreparable brain injury,” which ultimately left him disabled and unable to work.


At this point, he and his wife sued a broad range of defendants — a radiology group, individual healthcare providers employed by the hospital, the primary ED physician, and that doctor’s emergency medicine group.


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