$5M Verdict For Breathing Tube Placed Wrongly Leading To Death

A 50-year-old man was rescued from a fire in his trailer. He was unconscious for an unknown period of time when he was rescued, but he did regain consciousness at the scene. The man was transported from the scene to Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia, Virginia, where he was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning and inhalation injuries…medicalmalpracticelawyers.com, $5M Virginia Medical Malpractice Verdict For Breathing Tube Placed In Esophagus Instead Of Trachea, Leading To Death, Jan 2024


Because the man needed a higher level of care, the emergency room physician’s plan was to stabilize him at the local hospital and then have him transferred to VCU.


The emergency room physician inserted an endotracheal tube to protect the man’s airway and to provide supplemental oxygen. The man’s oxygen level fell shortly after the tube was inserted, and the emergency room physician removed the endotracheal tube a few minutes later. He was re-intubated between three to six minutes later but there was no documentation that oxygen was provided to the man during those critical minutes.


The man suffered cardiopulmonary arrest several minutes after he was re-intubated. During resuscitation efforts, it was discovered by chest x-ray that the endotracheal tube was in the man’s esophagus and not in his trachea, meaning that he was not receiving supplemental oxygen into his lungs as intended but the oxygen was flowing instead into his stomach. The man could not be resuscitated and died . A Virginia wrongful death lawsuit was filed by his family.


A report regarding the trial stated that the plaintiff’s experts testified that the defendant emergency room physician had breached the standard of care by removing the properly placed endotracheal tube; the man suffered a prolonged period of time without receiving supplemental oxygen; the tube was subsequently placed into the man’s esophagus, which meant that he was not receiving oxygen into his lungs; as a result, the man suffered hypoxic cardiopulmonary arrest when the tube was removed, from which he did not survive. The defense reportedly argued that it was not a breach of the standard of care to remove the tube and that the man would have died as a result of the injuries he received from the fire.


The three-day Virginia medical malpractice wrongful death trial resulted in the jury awarding the man’s three adult children $5 million, divided equally among them. There was no claim for economic loss presented to the jury. The defense filed a post-trial motion to set aside the jury’s verdict, which was denied by the trial court.


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