Lawrenceville, GA—A Georgia jury cleared a nurse practitioner and her supervising physician of liability Tuesday at trial over the 2015 death of a patient hours after being treated by the two medical professionals in a hospital emergency department. Arnold v. Lee, R.N.P., et al. 17-C-07323-S2.
The Gwinnett County State Court jury deliberated about four hours before finding nurse practitioner Youn Lee and Dr. Eric Deal were not grossly negligent in their care of Connie Arnold, 61. Arnold died less than three hours after being discharged from a Monroe, Georgia hospital emergency department where she had been seen by Lee and Deal for ongoing chest pain.
Arnold’s daughter, Keisha Arnold, contends her mother suffered a fatal heart attack and that Deal and Lee failed to properly respond to the tell-tale signs of a critical coronary event at the hospital.
The two healthcare providers evaluated and treated Arnold before ultimately calling in her primary care physician, who diagnosed Arnold with musculoskeletal pain and decided to discharge her. The six-day trial focused largely on the propriety of Lee and Deal’s treatment decisions.
During Monday’s closings, Keisha Arnold’s attorney, Morgan & Morgan’s Keenan Nix, walked jurors through evidence he said showed Connie Arnold exhibited multiple “red flag” warning signs of a coronary event, including chest pain and elevated blood-troponin levels, that required the two healthcare providers perform serial electrocardiograms and call in a cardiologist.
“There’s a right way [to treat symptoms like Arnold’s], and there’s a wrong way. And the comparison in this case could not be more stark,” Nix said. “And what do you call the difference between the two? Gross negligence.”
Later in closings, Keisha Arnold's attorney, Morgan & Morgan's Christopher Graddock, asked jurors for $25 million in damages, including $10 million for Arnold's pain and suffering before her death.
But the health care providers contend they properly worked through Arnold’s case before calling in a physician with a history of treating her that rendered him qualified to take over her care. On Monday, Lee’s attorney, Brinson Askew’s Stephen Moseley, told jurors that Arnold’s symptoms matched a wide range of health conditions. And he contended that her blood tests proved she was not suffering a heart attack while at the hospital.
“The fact that there was no rise in the troponin level tells all of us all we need to know about what was not happening with Ms. Arnold that night,” Moseley said. ‘She was not having a heart attack.”
Deal’s attorney, Huff Powell Bailey’s Michael Frankson, agreed, arguing that Deal and Lee acted reasonably in performing blood draws and other tests before calling in Arnold’s treating physician and deferring to his discharge decision.
“In the setting of someone who is unlikely to be having a heart attack,” Frankson said, “[Deal and Lee] don’t need to overrule [the primary care physician].”
Neither Arnold’s primary care physician nor the hospital were defendants at trial.
“This was a challenging case against excellent attorneys,“ Frankson told CVN after the verdict. “Dr. Deal and I extend our sympathies to Ms. Arnold’s family, but we are grateful to the jury for seeing through the allegations of gross negligence on his part.”
Nix told CVN he was disappointed in the outcome but had no regrets in the case. "[We were] in the arena, giving it everything we had for Keisha and Connie,” Nix said. “We had our day in court and it was a well-tried case by both sides.”
CVN has reached out to Moseley and will update this article with his comments.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
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