Defense Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case

In September, 2007, Karen T. Grottalio obtained a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case on behalf of a municipal hospital involving an alleged negligent intubation while plaintiff’s treating physicians were preparing the patient for surgery. As a result, the plaintiff underwent an emergent tracheotomy, which caused scarring, subglottic stenosis and required additional surgery.

It was claimed that anesthesiologists employed by the hospital made multiple failed attempts to intubate the patient by endotracheal means, including so called “blind attempts” which caused trauma and swelling, leaving them no choice but to perform a tracheotomy. Employing expert testimony, Ms. Grottalio argued that defendants did not depart from the standard of care, and that direct intubation attempts can cause trauma to the oropharyngeal tissue causing bloody secretions, which would have made the fiberoptic intubation difficult even if it had been performed earlier. She further argued that it was not standard of care to proceed directly to fiberoptic intubation without first trying intubation by direct laryngoscopy multiple times.

Plaintiff developed sub-glottic stenosis, a narrowing of the airway, requiring three subsequent surgeries, a stent placement and a re-tracheotomy which remained in place for approximately one year. During the trial, Ms. Grottalio introduced into evidence a moving animation of a typical intubation and an intubation in a case similar to plaintiff’s.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants. It found that the defendants followed the guidelines pertaining to unanticipated difficult intubations and therefore did not deviate from the standard of care. The animation introduced at trial by Ms. Grottalio was well received by the jury and assisted them in rendering a defense verdict.