The wife and children of a man who died after waiting six hours to be admitted to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Towson were awarded $1.44 million in compensation today, by a jury in Baltimore County.
Thomas Murphy, 59, had gone to Patient First on June 9, 2007, complaining of fever and chills. He was seen and sent home. The next day, Mr. Murphy presented to St. Joseph's at approximately 5:30 p.m.and was seen by the defendant ER physician who failed to diagnosis sepsis and insteadgave himan antibiotic and a liter of IV fluids for suspected pneumonia. A CT scan was performed which the family argued, would have shown Mr. Murphy did not have pneumonia by 8:30 that evening. For reasons that were never explained by the defendant, Murphy remained in the ER until after midnight. Despite being transferred to the intensive care unit at 3 a.m the next day, and going to surgery 11 hours after that to attempt to discover the source of the sepsis, Murphy died of septic shock the next afternoon.
The defendant maintained that once he called the hospital's admitting floor physician at 9:10 p.m. the night Murphy came to the hospital, Murphy was no longer his responsibility and that the ER nurses failed to communicate the patient's worsening condition to him.
Murphy's widow was awarded economic damages of $840,000.00, which included future lost wages, and $300,000.00 for her pain and suffering.His children were each awarded $100,000.00, as was his estate. The physician at Patient First, the hospital and the floor doctor all settled before trial for confidential amounts. An appeal by the defendant may be filed for, among other reasons, the family's refusal to disclose the prior settlements with the remaining ER physician defendant. The defendant argued he had the right to know the amounts of these settlements prior to trial.