August 22, 2017, PNLR E-Newsletter

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Failure to restore heartbeat to normal rate

photo of electrocardiogram

The plaintiff alleged that a hospital was liable for its nurse’s failure to adequately monitor a heart patient’s vital signs, connect his external pacemaker, and notify a physician of his bradycardia. The jury awarded approximately $5.8 million. Ashmore v. Hartford Hosp.

William Ashmore, 68, was admitted to Hartford Hospital, where he underwent a mitral valve replacement and a coronary artery bypass graft. He was transferred to the facility’s cardiac intensive care unit and, later, its postoperative cardiac floor. Ashmore’s treatment orders included telemetry and notification of his physician if his heart rate exceeded 100 beats per minute or fell below 60 beats per minute. Additionally, staff members were instructed to follow an emergent bradycardia protocol.

When Ashmore experienced a rapid heart rate, a nurse administered intravenous Lopressor. Fifteen minutes later, his heartbeat dropped to 42 beats per minute; it remained under 50 beats per minute for the next 15 minutes. He then became unresponsive, prompting a code. He suffered severe brain damage and died three days later. He is survived by his wife and three adult children.

Ashmore’s wife, on behalf of his estate, sued the hospital, alleging liability for its nurse’s failure to adequately monitor Ashmore’s vital signs, connect his external pacemaker, and notify a physician when he became bradycardic. The plaintiff also alleged that the nurse negligently administered Lopressor and Dilaudid to Ashmore while he was disconnected from a pacemaker. Additionally, suit claimed that a treating APRN failed to assess Ashmore when he became bradycardic, instruct the nurse to connect him to a pacemaker, and contact his treating physician.

The jury awarded approximately $5.8 million. The court denied defense motions to set aside the verdict, for judgment n.o.v., and for remittitur.

Citation: Ashmore v. Hartford Hosp., No. UWY-CV-13-6018555-S (Conn. Super. Ct. Waterbury July 25, 2017).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Eric P. Smith, New Haven, Conn.

Plaintiff experts: Daniel Fintel, cardiology, Chicago; and Elizabeth Arruda, nursing, Tampa.

Defense experts: Gregory Guigliano, cardiology, Springfield, Mass.; Jennifer Moy, nursing, Washington, D.C.; and Josephine Soucy, nursing, Bristol, Conn.