August 23, 2016, PNLR E-Newsletter
Failure to timely diagnose optic nerve stroke
The plaintiff became blind after suffering an anterior ischemic stroke of the optic nerves after open heart surgery and sued the heart surgeon, the physician, and the hospital, alleging failure to timely diagnose and treat the stroke. The surgeon settled for an undisclosed amount, and a jury awarded $6.84 million. Fortner v. Tex. Heart Hosp. of the S.W.
Ronald Fortner, 50, underwent open heart surgery at The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano. About one day later, he complained of lost vision in his right eye, which then progressed to his left eye. By the second postoperative day, he was completely blind. A maintenance supervisor earning about $36,000 annually, Fortner has not returned to work.
Fortner and his wife sued the heart surgeon and his practice, a critical care physician, and the hospital, alleging failure to timely diagnose and treat an anterior ischemic stroke of the optic nerves. According to the plaintiffs’ expert, Fortner should have been treated with blood pressure medications and blood transfusions to correct his anemia before his blindness became permanent. Suit also alleged that the hospital failed to obtain a timely ophthalmology consultation because the facility lacked a credentialed specialist.
The heart surgeon and his practice settled before trial for an undisclosed amount. The jury awarded about $6.84 million, finding the hospital 95 percent liable and the critical care physician 5 percent responsible. The award includes $500,000 to Fortner’s wife and $1.7 million in noneconomic damages, which will be reduced to $335,000 under the state’s damages cap.
Citation: Fortner v. Tex. Heart Hosp. of the S.W., No. DC-10-02994 (Tex. Dist. Ct. Dallas Cnty. July 1, 2016).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Robert L. Chaiken, Kenneth B. Chaiken, and Carrie P. Kitner, all of Plano, Texas; and AAJ member Jeffrey S. Levinger, Dallas.
Plaintiff experts: John P. Kress, critical care, Chicago; Alfredo A. Sadun, neuro-ophthalmology, Pasadena, Calif.; Gary Durham, economics, Dallas; and Lori Hinton, life-care planning, Houston.
Defense experts: Nancy J. Newman, neuro-ophthalmology, Atlanta; and Carl Dahlberg, critical care, Houston.