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$1M Settlement With 1 Doc, Directed Verdict for Another Wraps Med Mal Trial Over Patient's Leg Amputation

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Feb 1, 2019 12:11:18 AM

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Atlanta, GA— A Georgia woman reached a $1 million settlement Thursday with one of the doctors she claims is responsible for the loss of her leg, soon after jurors found the physician partially liable on a $4.7 million award, and days after a verdict was directed in favor of the second doctor she claims is at fault. Lockhart v. Bloom, et al., 16EV003451. 

Connie Lockhart reached the agreement with Dr. Sachin Lavania, who she contends failed to promptly discover or properly treat a misplaced medical line in her leg, which ultimately required a below-the-knee amputation.

The $1 million settlement came soon after a Fulton County State Court jury handed down a $4.7 million verdict and found Lavania 27% responsible for the incident. Jurors apportioned 3% of fault to Lockhart herself and the remaining 70% to non-party medical staff.

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The settlement matched the limit of the doctor’s insurance policy, Lockhart’s attorney, the Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell, told CVN after the verdict. He added the agreement was a change in course for the doctor, who had not authorized his insurer to negotiate before trial.

Lockhart’s left leg was amputated in March 2012, about two weeks after she was admitted to Northside Hospital—Cherokee’s emergency room for an overdose of blood pressure medication.

Lockhart claims she lost her leg because Dr. Glenn Bloom, the ER’s physician, improperly placed a femoral catheter line in her artery rather than her vein, which sent medication into the artery, ultimately destroying her leg. Lavania, who took over her care, compounded the error, Lockhart claims, through delays and inadequate treatment that forced the amputation.

However, the case against Bloom never made it to the jury room. Following the close of evidence, Fulton County State Court Judge Jane Morrison granted a defense motion for a directed verdict in Bloom’s favor. In an order filed Wednesday, Judge Morrison reasoned she found plaintiff “failed to produce legally sufficient expert testimony to establish a breach of the standard of care and/or gross negligence….”

That decision followed the Bloom legal team’s argument that plaintiff's expert as to Bloom's treatment, critical care physician Dr. Eric Gluck, was not qualified to give an opinion regarding placement of a femoral line in the ER.

After the verdict, Bloom’s attorney, Weathington McGrew’s Paul Weathington, praised Judge Morrison’s decision and said he was confident in his client’s case, no matter the ruling. “On behalf of Dr. Bloom, we were gratified that Judge Jane Morrison had the courage to grant a directed verdict. We believe she got it right and will vigorously fight to uphold her ruling if appealed,” Weathington said. “We also feel that Dr. Bloom would have been exonerated if the case had gone to a jury.”

Bell disagreed, calling Judge Morrison’s decision “absolutely contrary to Georgia law,” and promising to appeal. “[The court] made an egregious error that’s going to require the court of appeals to correct,” Bell said. “And once they do, we’re going to be back down retrying the case against Dr. Bloom.”

With Bloom cleared by court order, Wednesday’s closings focused on Lavania’s care and what role it played, if any, in the loss of Lockhart’s leg.  

Bell walked jurors through the Lavania's treatment timeline. He told jurors the doctor failed to discover the misplaced line when he assumed her care, then repeatedly failed to travel promptly to the hospital to examine his patient, first when staff noticed Lockhart’s leg had turned cold, mottled, and pulseless, then later when the mistake in the line was discovered.

“We’re not asking for heroics. We’re asking doctors to do their job,” Bell said, noting Lavania did not see Lockhart until about 7 hours after symptoms were first reported. “The most important part of the job is to show up and care for the patient. And Dr. Lavania did not do that.”

However, Lavania’s attorneys contended the doctor properly treated Lockhart, directing testing of her leg once symptoms were discovered and ordering medication be discontinued as soon as the error with the line was discovered.

On Wednesday, Weinberg Wheeler’s Robert Tanner detailed Lavania’s treatment to jurors, arguing there was nothing more the doctor could have done if he had traveled to the hospital earlier. “He did not violate the standard of care,” Tanner said. “There’s no competent evidence that he did.”

Tanner added evidence showed Lockhart’s leg was beyond saving by the time nurses discovered the improper placement. “All you’ve heard is, ‘Well there’s hope that somebody might have done something,” Tanner said. “But hope is not what the law requires. The law requires that plaintiff prove by reasonable medical probability that it would have saved the leg.”

However, Bell countered that plaintiff’s vascular surgery expert, Dr. Paul Collier, concluded prompt consultation with a specialist and treatment with appropriate medication may have saved Lockhart’s leg. “You don’t just give up. You don’t just say ‘There’s nothing we can do. So sorry, Connie, you can live with your prosthesis for the rest of [your life],’” Bell said. “You’ve got to give medicine, and you’ve got to take action to save the leg.”

After the verdict, Bell told CVN he believed evidence of Lavania’s delays was central to the jury holding him responsible.

“He essentially let her leg die, while she was on a ventilator, unconscious, and couldn’t do anything,” Bell said. “I think that was a big factor [with the jury].”

CVN has reached out to Lavania’s legal team for comment.  

CVN covered the trial and will publish gavel-to-gavel video as soon as possible.

Email Arlin Crisco at acrisco@cvn.com.

Related Information

Connie Lockhart is represented by the Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell and David Schlachter and the Summerville Firm’s Darren Summerville.

Dr. Glenn Bloom and Cherokee Emergency Physicians LLC are represented by Weathington McGrew’s Paul Weathington and Gabriel Banks.

Dr. Sachin Lavania and Cherokee Lung and Sleep Specialists P.C. are represented by Weinberg Wheeler’s Robert Tanner, Nick Panyotopoulos, and Julie Hall.

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Topics: Lockhart v. Bloom, et al., Medical Malpractice, Georgia