After being taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital following a car crash the patient was treated for a pelvic fracture. Doctors recommended she receive fragmin, an anti-coagulant, to protect her from developing deep vein thrombosis. She was never given the fragmin. The patient developed a massive saddle pulmonary embolism and died two days after she was admitted to the hospital.
Lawsuit over death at hospital yields $3M settlement
By Jamie Loo
Law Bulletin staff writer
The daughter of a woman who died from a blood clot after hospital staff failed to provide her with preventative treatment will receive a $3 million settlement.
On June 4, 2010, Reola Conwell, 47, and her daughter, Latrice “Myesha” Brown, were involved in a car crash on the city’s Near West Side. Both women were taken to the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Conwell had a non-dislocated pelvic fracture, and trauma doctors, including Nabil Issa, asked for an orthopedic consultation.
Mark Yaffe performed that consultation with Conwell and recommended that she receive fragmin, a DVT prophylactic anti-coagulant, to protect her from developing deep vein thrombosis.
Later that day, another doctor, Charles Pearce, noted Yaffe’s suggestion and put in an order for VTE-prophylaxis, according to court documents. John M. Power, a partner at Cogan & Power P.C., who represented Brown, said Pearce’s notes indicate he was waiting for news on whether Conwell needed surgery.
“Within 20 minutes, ortho said they weren’t going to do the surgery,” he said. “No one picked up the order to start the fragmin.”
The next morning, Yaffe saw Conwell and again recommended fragmin for her DVT treatment. Two more doctors visited Conwell and saw her charts, Power said, but no one took action or followed up on the order.
Power said a nurse who was checking on Conwell noticed her oxygen saturation rates were dropping but failed to report that to doctors.
Conwell developed a massive saddle pulmonary embolism and died two days after she was admitted to the hospital.
Filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the lawsuit alleged that hospital staff failed to communicate and follow through with medical treatments. The suit also says staff failed to identify and correct the mistake in a timely manner.
It also alleged that staff failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism and treat in a timely manner. Power said the symptoms Conwell showed on June 5, which included the dropping oxygen levels and a faint spell, should have indicated trouble, and doctors could have aggressively treated it to stop the emboli.
The defense argued that deep vein thrombosis that develops within 24 hours of trauma is often fatal, even with DVT prophylactic treatment.
Stetson F. Atwood and Victoria D. Hartstein of Donohue, Brown, Mathewson & Smyth LLC represented the hospital. Atwood could not be reached for comment.
At the time of her death, Conwell was the sole caretaker for her mother, Power said. She was a Chicago Transit Authority bus driver known for her friendliness and generosity among regulars on her bus route, whom she often helped with gifts, such as a winter coat for a pregnant teen mother.
Brown underwent surgery following the accident and survived, Power said, waking up to the news that her mother had died.
Power commended Northwestern for recognizing that a settlement was appropriate.
The case was mediated by Geoffrey L. Gifford of Pavalon & Gifford and approved on Feb. 24 by Associate Judge Moira Susan Johnson.
The case is Latrice Brown, etc., v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital, et al., No. 12 L 5939.
Originally published on March 3, 2015 in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.