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Jury awards $1.75M in Baltimore County wrongful death case

Attorney James D. Cardea.

Attorney James D. Cardea.

A Baltimore County jury awarded $1.75 million to the family of a man who died in 2014 after a doctor failed to give him a CT scan when he went to the emergency room with chest pains.

Thomas Rochfort, 65, died Aug. 26, 2014, following emergency surgery for an aortic dissection — a tear in the artery — which the plaintiffs argued should have been caught more than 24 hours earlier, according to attorney James D. Cardea.

Rochfort is survived by his wife and two adult daughters. He was a retired assistant principal with Baltimore County Public Schools and a “lifelong educator,” according to Cardea, of Schochor, Federico and Staton P.A. in Baltimore.

Cardea said the family was gratified by the jury’s verdict.

“It was a tremendous loss to their family,” Cardea said of Rochfort’s death. “They have basically lived a nightmare for the last five years.”

The trial began June 17 in Baltimore County Circuit Court. The jury deliberated for almost seven hours before returning the verdict Tuesday, awarding $500,000 in economic damages and $1.25 million in noneconomic damages, divided among the estate and surviving family members. A portion of the award will be subject to the state’s cap on noneconomic damages.

Rochfort went to the emergency room at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson on Aug. 18, 2014, after he experienced chest pain while working out, according to Cardea. He was diagnosed with a muscle strain and discharged.

Attorney Tara Clary.

Attorney Tara Clary.

Cardea said that due to Rochfort’s “extensive cardiac history,” Rochfort should have been given a CT scan, which would have revealed the beginnings of an aortic dissection. Rochfort returned to the emergency room 27 hours later. He received emergency surgery but died several days later.

An expert witness testified that the CT scan would have caught the issue and that successful surgery would have allowed Rochfort to live five to 10 more years, according to Cardea.

The defendants, Osler Drive Emergency Physician Associates and doctor Ellen Lemkin, argued that Rochfort was properly diagnosed with a chest strain and that the aortic dissection developed after he left the emergency room.

“Our hearts go out to the Rochfort family for their loss,” defense attorney Neal M. Brown said in a statement. “Emergency room physicians do their best, but none have crystal balls. What happened in this case was not foreseeable based on the patient’s complaints.”

Brown, of Waranch and Brown LLC in Lutherville, said his clients are considering their post-trial options.

Maria Rochfort et al. v. Ellen Lemkin et al.

Court: Baltimore County Circuit

Case No.: 03-C-17-003873

Judge: Michael J. Finifter

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff ($1.75 million; $500,000 in economic damages, $500,000 in noneconomic damages to wife Maria Rochfort, $250,000 in noneconomic damages each to Katherine Saunders, Stacy Delilse and Thomas Rochfort’s estate)

Dates:

Incident: Aug. 18-26, 2014

Suit filed: April 19, 2017

Verdict: June 25, 2019

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: James D. Cardea and Tara Clary of Schochor, Federico and Staton P.A. in Baltimore

Defendants’ Attorneys: Neal M. Brown and Saamia H. Dasti of Waranch and Brown LLC in Lutherville

Counts: Wrongful death and survival action


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