Malpractice suit settled for $8 million
By Charles B. Pelkie
HERALD-NEWS STAFF WRITER
CHICAGO – A Joliet legal firm recently reached an $8 million settlement in a medical malpractice case involving a former Glendale Heights firefighter who was mistakenly diagnosed with asthma during a routine work physical seven years ago.
Scott Sircher, the 45-year-old former fire department lieutenant, actually suffered from a genetic disorder known as Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, which results in lung failure and can cause liver disease.
The disease currently has no cure. But Joliet attorney Laird Ozmon argued that if Sircher’s symptoms had been properly diagnosed during a work physical in 1994, his client could have received treatment that would have ‘slowed the destruction of his lungs and extended his life.
Sircher has since lost an estimated 75 percent of his lung capacity, and he requires oxygen intermittently, according to Ozmon. His body can stand only minimal exertion, making it impossible for Sircher to help his wife, Denise Sircher, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and lupus.
The attorney described his client as “a pulmonary cripple” whose life expectancy was reduced by 15 to 20 years because he did not receive timely treatment.
Ozmon filed a lawsuit in Cook County alleging that defendants Occupational Medicine Network Inc. and GlenOaks Medical Center, both located in Glendale Heights, should have properly diagnosed his breathing problems during a work-related exam in 1994.
The attorney alleged that doctors failed to conduct a pulmonary test that would have shown an irreversible loss of lung function and suggested that Sircher suffered from more than asthma. “It was a basic precursor to determining a loss of lung function inconsistent with asthma,” Ozmon said.
Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, which can be diagnosed with a blood test, would have been a likely culprit had the doctors looked beyond asthma, Ozmon said.
Instead, doctors cleared Sircher for duty 10 days after his physical, Ozmon said. As he worked, his lung function continued to deteriorate. He was finally diagnosed correctly in 1996, Ozmon said. “By that time, he could barely stand up in the shower,” Ozmon said.
The attorney representing Occupational Medicine Network and GlenOaks Medical Center could not be reached for comment Wednesday, The lawsuit also named as a defendant the Asthma and Allergy Center in Bloomingdale, where Sircher had been receiving treatment for his breathing difficulties.
An estimated 21 -million Americans are undetected carriers of the disease, according to the Alpha-1 Foundation Web site.
The liver normally produces a protein called trypsin, which assists in ridding the body of dead cells. A healthy person also produces a protein known as anti-trypsin, which prevents the trypsin protein from destroying healthy cells, specifically in the lungs.
The only approved treatment for the lung disease is a weekly augmentation of the Alpha-1 protein, which can cost an estimated $60,000 per person, according to the Alpha-1 Foundation.
Signs of the disease can include shortness of breath, rapid deterioration of lung function, decreased exercise tolerance, chronic liver problems, elevated liver enzymes and a lack of response to asthma or allergy treatment.
Medical Malpractice Case Will County, Joliet IL
Recently awarded the highest settled Medical Malpractice suit in the history of Will County for 9.2 million.
Will County, Il.(a suburb of Chicago) – On January 15, 2015, a Will County woman and her husband settled a medical malpractice lawsuit against a local hospital and surgical group, for a Will County record high settlement of $9.2 million. She filed suit because surgical complications after weight loss surgery in November, 2010, led to above-the-knee amputation of both of her legs. The surgeon was an employee of the surgical group and an agent of a local hospital. Based upon claims of agency the hospital participated in the settlement. There were no other significant claims against the hospital. A local hematologist also contributed to the settlement.
On November, 10, 2010, a local woman underwent a weight loss procedure called a gastric sleeve surgery, which involved removal of approximately 70% of her stomach. She had a preexisting blood clotting disorder, and for the previous ten years had been required to take a blood thinner called Coumadin every day. The blood thinner had to be discontinued just before surgery, with the expectation that it would be restarted in a timely manner after the operation. Unfortunately, she suffered a bleeding complication after surgery, and the surgeon decided to delay the restarting of those blood thinners. Due to the absence of an anticoagulation bridging plan, blood thinners were never restarted and after two weeks, she developed massive blood clots in her legs that ultimately resulted in the complete loss of blood circulation to her legs. Because circulation could not be restored, both of her legs were amputated above the knees on November 26, 2010.
A lawsuit was filed in Will County by Laird Ozmon of the Law Offices of Laird M. Ozmon, Ltd. alleging that her doctor failed to sufficiently educate her that due to her hyper coagulable condition, she should have had a less invasive and risky weight loss surgery called a lap band procedure, failed to properly manager her anticoagulants before surgery, failed to restart her anticoagulants when it was safe to do so, and failed to respond in a timely manner when she developed extensive blood clots.
The plaintiffs were represented by Laird Ozmon of Laird M. Ozmon, Ltd, (Joliet) and Mark McNabola, Ted Jennings and Ruth Degnan of McNabola Law Group, P.C. (Chicago) who were subsequently added as trial counsel. Defendant hospital was represented by Brian Fetzer of Johnson & Bell, Ltd. (Chicago); defendant surgeon and medical group were represented by Troy Lundquist of Langhenry, Gillen, Lundquist & Johnson, LLC (Joliet); and the hematologist and medical group were represented by Martha Swatek of Swatek Law Group, Ltd. (Geneva).
Plaintiff, a bricklayer-carpenter, age 42, sustained a nearly complete amputation of his left hand, while using a power miter saw found to be unreasonably dangerous due to a lack of a right side lower blade guard. Plaintiff’s expert was the invertor and designer of the 10-inch Black & Decker Power Miter Box Saw ( Model 7717, Type 1) testified he designed guards for both sides but for marketing reasons Black & Decker omitted the right side guard.
Laird Ozmon from Ozmon Law settled an $8,000,000.00 dollar Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD, A1AD) case for client Scott S. Scott was misdiagnosed with COPD for years when he actually had the rare Alpha-1 protein deficiency.
Beginning in 1991, defts misdiagnosed M-40 pltf’s genetic disorder(Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency) as asthma, resulting in loss of over 75% of pltf’s lung function, leaving him a pulmonary cripple and diminishing his life expectancy by 15-20 years. If identified by a simple blood test, progress of the disease could have been halted by serum replacement therapy and pltf’s emphysema prevented. Due to his extended treatment for asthma with steroids, pltf also developed osteoporosis and suffered multiple vertebral fractures. NOTE: this is the first known case involving the misdiagnosis of Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Defeciency.
Age 49, a carpenter, was using a 10-inch Black and Decker miter box saw when an unguarded blade on the right side struck his left hand, amputating one-third around the thumb. Thumb was sewn back on and palm repaired, but a year later index finger had to be removed and other fingers are unable to grasp, numb and have pain, due to tendon injury. Inventor had testified he designed guards for both sides but deft omitted right side because most users are right-handed.
December 1, 2003, pltf M-16 presented to the emergency room of Deft Hospital with a two-day history of abdominal pain and diarrhea. He had a fever and was tachycardic. His CBC blood test revealed that his white blood count was elevated with marked shift to the left. A CT scan of his abdomen revealed that appendicitis could not be excluded as a possible diagnosis. He was admitted thereafter to deft Mercy Hospital. On December 2, 2003, he was discharged from the deft Mercy Hospital by deft Cesare Menendez, M.D., despite an abdominal white blood count, bandemia, and fever spike noted at time of discharge. On December 3, 2003, pltf’s decedent’s parents called deft Cesare Menendez, M.D. on two occasions informing him that their son’s condition was worsening. However, it was not recommended that they return to the hospital immediately, but rather were given an appointment for the following day at 1:00p.m. On December 4, 2003 at 1:40a.m., pltf’s decedent told his father to take him to the hospital but then collapsed and died. Autopsy later disclosed a purulent infectious process in the right lower quadrant most likely related to a perforated appendicitis resulting in peritonits, sepsis and ultimately his death.
Male 44 yr old cabinet maker’s August 1996 chest x-ray was misread and defendants failed to diagnose his lung cancer until May, 1997, when it was Stage III and had metastasized to his brain. He died in Sept. 1997 (survived by wife and 3 grown children)
A male 37 year old tripped over a nail protruding from concrete on a top step at a Chicago construction project and fell down a stairway sustaining a L4-L5 herniation requiring decompressive laminectomy and fusion. Plaintiff could not return to work as a carpet installer and now works as a truck driver without lifting requirements.
A male, 35 years old, was entering a fast food establishment carrying his child and was injured when a mat in the entranceway slipped due to an accumulation of water and/or other substances on the underlying floor causing him to violently twist in an attempt to avoid falling and potentially injuring his child. He sustained back injuries at the L3/L4, L4/L5 and L5/S1 levels which required a posterolateral intertransverse arthrodesis with pedicle screw segmental fixation, posterior lumber interbody fusion and placement of a prosthetic devise.
Student, M-12 was struck and killed at a Joliet corner because a Suburban Bus did not employ safety procedures or equipment such as a “stop arm” in violation of federal school bus regulations. The suburban bus route had been created specifically to take children to and from Washington Junior High School, and was a “de facto” school bus according to the estate. Child is survived by his parents, a twin brother, and 3 sisters.