Directed Verdict in Bronx County

On October 15, 2013, HPM&B received a directed verdict in the Supreme Court, Bronx County on behalf of a major hospital in the metropolitan area.

Plaintiff presented to the Emergency Department with complaints of severe diffuse abdominal pain.  She stated the pain started the night before after she ate some Thai food.  She rated the pain as an” “8” on a scale of 1-10.  Plaintiff was diagnosed with gastroenteritis, but claimed that HPMB’s client failed to recognize that she was suffering from appendicitis/bowel inflammation prior to discharging her home.  The next day, the patient was diagnosed with a cecal perforation and underwent an open surgery to treat her bowel rupture.  She was subsequently hospitalized for several days and suffered infectious complications, post-operatively. 

Defendant was represented by HPM&B partner Darhsan I. Patel.  At trial, Mr. Patel introduced testimony from experts in pathology, infectious disease and general surgery.  The pathology expert explained that the surgical specimens revealed that plaintiff’s cecal perforation was caused by a rare parasite, Entamoeba Histolytica.  The infectious disease expert explained that it would have been impossible for HPMB’s client to have diagnosed and treat this particular parasitic infection, known as an amebic infection, prior to the perforation of the patent’s cecum.  The expert in general surgery opined that appendicitis could not have caused the patient’s cecum to perforate and that the finding of appendicitis on the pathology specimens was a product of the cecal perforation.

On cross- examination, plaintiff’s expert in general surgery acknowledged that the patient’s cecum likely perforated after she was discharged from the Emergency Department of HPMB’s client.  The expert further acknowledged that he could not state, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, what caused the cecum to perforate.  The expert also admitted that he was not aware of a single case in which an undiagnosed appendicitis caused a cecal perforation, which was plaintiff’s claim in this case.

After both sides rested, the court issued a directed verdict in favor of HPMB’s client on the ground that plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence in this matter.