Patient suffers fatal arrhythmia after internist fails to refer him to cardiologist

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Case in Point

March 15, 2011

Patient suffers fatal arrhythmia after internist fails to refer him to cardiologist 

The wife of the patient—who had visited an emergency room with chest pain that was later linked to a leaky aortic valve—claimed that, among other things, an internist evaluating him later failed to obtain the results of his stress test from the ER visit. The jury awarded about $1.7 million. Heidt v. Argani.

Gerry Heidt, 42, was born with a defective aortic valve and suffered from chronic aortic insufficiency. After experiencing significant chest pain while at work, he went to a hospital emergency room, where two physicians conducted a stress test, among other things, and concluded that Heidt’s symptoms did not result from a torn muscle or blocked coronary arteries. He was discharged with instructions to follow up with his primary care physician.

A few days later, Heidt consulted Faranak Argani, his treating internist. Argani reviewed the results of a cardiac catheterization performed at the hospital during Heidt’s ER visit and concluded that his chest pain resulted from a torn muscle. She told Heidt to take Motrin if he experienced future pain.

Eleven months later, Heidt suffered a fatal arrhythmia triggered by extensive heart muscle damage from a leaky aortic valve. A foreman for a landscaping company earning about $72,000 annually, he is survived by his wife and four minor children.

Heidt’s wife, individually and on behalf of his estate, sued Argani and the clinic for which she worked, alleging Argani failed to refer Heidt to a cardiologist. The plaintiffs argued that the cause of Heidt’s chest pain at the time of the emergency room visit was a leaky aortic valve that required surgical replacement. Among other things, the plaintiffs claimed, Argani failed to obtain the results of Heidt’s failed stress test from the emergency room visit.

The jury awarded about $1.7 million.

Citation: Heidt v. Argani, No. DV 07-0583 (Mont., 13th Jud. Dist. Feb. 18, 2011).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Steven J. Harman and Donald L. Harris, both of Billings, Montana.

Plaintiff experts: Jay Schapira, cardiology, Los Angeles; Robert L. Shuman, cardiac surgery, Long Beach, California; Jeffrey Selwyn, internal medicine, Tucson; and Ronald Dulaney, forensic economics, Missoula, Montana.


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