Heart attack malpractice claim reinstated
Carl Johnson was seen in the E.R. with chest pain on November 22. He was discharged the following day with minimal instructions and told to follow-up one week later with an out-patient stress test. He suffered a massive heart attack three days after discharge and died. His family filed a malpractice claim alleging that his discharge instructions should have included a prescription for beta blockers, administration of aspirin and an instruction to limit his activity until his stress test was completed and evaluated.
The trial court concluded that Johnson's family's Notice of Intent to Sue was inadequate because it did not explain, scientifically, how the above alleged violations would have prevented Johnson's subsequent heart attack. This summer the Supreme Court held in the Bush case that a Notice of Intent should be interpreted with the recognition that it is a document prepared by lay persons intended to advise an expert with regard to alleged negligence: if prepared in good faith and comprehensible, it should not be strictly interpreted to limit lawsuits. Further, if prepared in good faith, like all pleadings, it should be subject to amendment. Applying this standard to Johnson's family's suit, the Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the lower court and reinstated the Johnsons' claim. They will still face the onerous task of proving that aspirin, beta blockers and limited activity would have prevented Johnson's diseased heart from suffering a heart attack.