The Oregon Court of Appeals Just Revived the Case of a Widow Whose Husband Died 24 Hours After an Emergency Room Discharged Him

In 2018, CNBC reported that “more than 250,000 people in the United States die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer,” according to research conducted by Johns Hopkins. The Journal of Patient Safety concluded that the number of deaths attributable to medical errors actually was more than 400,000. Inevitably, thousands of those annual deaths occur right here in Oregon. Families impacted by medical negligence only have a limited period of time to pursue legal action, which is why contacting a knowledgeable Oregon medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible is crucial.

Late last month, the Oregon Court of Appeals issued a ruling that revived a widow’s medical malpractice case against the hospital and doctors who treated her husband.

This case is a reminder of several important things, but we’ll focus on two. The first is the prevalence of fatal mistakes by medical providers. As noted above, reputable sources have placed the number of deaths in the hundreds of thousands every year. These mistakes include everything from prescribing (or administering) the wrong drug (or the wrong dosage) to leaving surgical instruments inside patients after operations to making incorrect diagnoses as a result of reviewing the wrong test results.

In the widow’s case, her husband visited the emergency room complaining of chest pains. The hospital allegedly administered an electrocardiogram (EKG), after which the ER doctor decided the patient “did not have an urgent cardiovascular problem or need further testing immediately,” and discharged him.

According to the widow’s complaint, the ER doctor reviewed the wrong EKG when drawing his conclusions and failing to diagnose the man’s aortic dissection. (Aortic dissection means a tear in the aorta, which is the human body’s main artery. According to the Mayo Clinic, once that tear breaks through the aorta’s outer wall, “aortic dissection is often deadly.”)

The deceased died roughly 24 hours after his discharge from the hospital.

A ‘Loss of Chance of Recovery’ Claim as Part of a Medical Negligence Lawsuit

The second point of focus is the widow’s second legal claim which, along with her wrongful death claim, the appeals court reinstated. That claim is something known as “loss of chance of recovery.” The claim, often shortened to “loss of chance,” asserts that the defendants’ negligence harmed the patient by denying them an opportunity to possibly achieve a better outcome.

Not every state allows this kind of claim for damages. In Washington, that state’s Supreme Court recognized the claim in 2011. Here in Oregon, the Supreme Court recognized the claim in a 2017 ruling. In that 2017 case, the patient endured a stroke and suffered substantial permanent brain damage. Doctors allegedly did not diagnose the stroke for a week, including three failures to diagnose the problem (two at an emergency room and one by a family practice physician) within the first 72 hours.

According to the patient’s complaint, the week-long delay cost him precious time, as prompt diagnosis and treatment would have offered a 33% chance of having “reduced or no stroke symptoms.”

In the young widow’s case, her argument (that the appeals court revived) was that, had the medical care providers properly examined and diagnosed the man the first time he visited the ER, that prompt diagnosis would have afforded him some chance of survival. By negligently misdiagnosing him, the providers deprived the patient of that chance, according to the claim. (In Oregon, a patient (or patient’s representative) can pursue a loss of chance claim even if the odds of a better outcome were less than 50%.)

Medical negligence cases are often expensive to try, tricky to prove, and challenging to protect (due to numerous appeals by the providers and their insurers.) That’s not to say you should abandon your case if a provider has harmed you or a loved one; it is, rather, an acknowledgment of the importance of identifying all of the “pluses” and “minuses” before you start. Part of that identification process entails getting straightforward, accurate, and knowledgeable advice from an experienced legal professional. The Oregon medical malpractice attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC have the hands-on experience necessary to provide a frank, honest, and reliable assessment of your case. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email:
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