Tracie VizzaMary Kay Plyter and paralegal Lexi Romney recently received a defense verdict on behalf of a pulmonologist/critical care physician in Chester County. A 67 year old woman who had been treating with her pulmonologist for six years for a chronic and progressive lung illness was hospitalized and diagnosed with pneumonia in December 2011. She was discharged on oxygen, but was quickly readmitted less than two weeks later with increased complaints of weakness and shortness of breath. The patient continued to decline rapidly, became critically ill and was transferred to the intensive care unit where she was intubated. Twelve days later, imaging suggested that there was erosion in the trachea at the area of the cuff around the endotracheal tube. This erosion was confirmed on February 1, 2012. Conservative management of the tracheal erosion failed and the patient was transferred to another hospital to be placed on extracorpeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to allow the trachea to heal. The Patient died from a brain hemorrhage the next day.

Plaintiffs, the decedent’s husband and daughter, brought suit against several physicians who treated the patient in the hospital, as well as the hospital itself. Plaintiffs claimed that the intubation was performed negligently and caused a tear in the patient’s trachea at the time of injury, which eventually caused the patient’s death. The defense argued that the intubation was a “textbook” intubation; successfully performed on the first try, and that the patient’s presentation in the days after the intubation did not support an injury to the trachea at the time of intubation and, further, that plaintiffs could not explain how the intubation was performed negligently. The defense further asserted that the trachea was slowly eroded by the cuff on the endotracheal tube, and likely worsened as a result of the patient’s long time steroid use. After a two week trial, the jury found in favor of all of the defendants.