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Jury sets damages at $1M in death from dye

A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury last week awarded a total of $1 million to two men whose mother died due to an allergic reaction to dyeing agents used in a heart catheterization procedure that the brothers alleged was unnecessary.

The award to Brian D. Jackson and Kevin J. Powell will be reduced to $831,250 due to Maryland’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, said attorney H. Briggs Bedigian. The defendant, MidAtlantic Cardiovascular Associates PA in Baltimore, denied the allegation of medical malpractice.

Sherry J. Pittman, 52, went into respiratory distress and died shortly after the catheterization in May 2009. During that procedure, dye was inserted into Pittman’s heart to detect if she had coronary heart disease, though preliminary tests showed she had only a 10 percent chance of having the ailment, Bedigian said.

“You never want to diagnose a patient at autopsy,” he added in reviewing the litigation. “Unfortunately, that’s how we discovered she didn’t have coronary artery disease.”

MidAtlantic’s attorney, Mary Alane Downs, did not return telephone messages seeking comment. She is with Morgan Carlo Downs & Everton in Hunt Valley.

MidAtlantic physicians examined Pittman after she complained of chest pain on May 14, 2009. The physical exam, which included a stress test, showed normal heart size and function with only mild hardening of tissue, but no significant narrowing of vessels, according to the lawsuit. Despite the lack of evidence of coronary artery disease, the medical group recommended that Pittman have a cardiac catheterization to make sure, the lawsuit stated.

Pittman’s medical records indicated she had a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting five years earlier, which put the group on notice that it must determine the extent of her tolerance for the dyeing agent before conducting the procedure, Bedigian said.

Prior to the May 22, 2009, catheterization, Pittman was given two doses each of prednisone and Benadryl to prevent an allergic reaction to the contrast media used to detect coronary artery disease. But those efforts were insufficient due to the extent of Pittman’s allergy, the lawyer said.

“She went into respiratory arrest immediately” after being injected with the dye, said Bedigian, of Wais, Vogelstein & Bedigian LLC in Baltimore. “It was pretty strong evidence that it was a cause-and-effect relationship.”

Pittman died that day despite efforts to revive her.

Jackson and Powell filed suit against MidAtlantic on Dec. 22, 2010, in Baltimore City Circuit Court. They alleged negligence and wrongful death, stating that the doctors had deviated from the standard of care by ordering an unnecessary catheterization, failing to properly medicate Pittman prior to the procedure and not giving due regard to Pittman’s propensity for severe allergic reactions.

The jury rendered its verdict on May 8 after a week-long trial that featured a battle of experts, Bedigian said.

Dr. Bruce Charash, a cardiologist for the plaintiffs, testified that MidAtlantic deviated from the standard of care by conducting an elective catheterization procedure without having greater appreciation for the extent of Pittman’s allergy. He also testified that the medical group could have treated Pittman with non-invasive procedures due to the low probability she had coronary heart disease.

Dr. Jonathan Dubin, a cardiologist for the defense, testified that the catheterization was within the standards of appropriate medical care in light of the medical information available to the physicians.

JACKSON AND POWELL V. MIDATLANTIC CARDIOVASCULAR ASSOCIATES PA

Court:

Baltimore City Circuit Court

Case No.:

24C10009371

Judge:

John P. Miller

Outcome:

Jury verdict

Dates:

Event: May 22, 2009

Suit filed: Dec. 22, 2010

Trial: May 1, 2012-May 8, 2012

Verdict: May 8, 2012

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys:

H. Briggs Bedigian and Michael L. Sanders of Wais, Vogelstein & Bedigian LLC in Baltimore.

Defendant’s’ Attorney:

Mary Alane Downs of Morgan Carlo Downs & Everton in Hunt Valley.

Plaintiffs’ Experts:

Bruce Charash, cardiologist

Defendant’s Experts:

Jonathan Dubin, cardiologist; and Franklin Adkinson, allergist and immunologist.

Count:

Negligence and wrongful death.