Medical Negligence Claim for an Avoidable Stroke Resolved in Court

A jury in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, has awarded $7.4 million compensation to a man after hearing his medical negligence claim for an avoidable stroke.

On April 16, 2010, Finis Cuff (61) from Darby in Delaware County visited his physician – Dr Douglas L Keagle – at the Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital for a check-up and to have his blood pressure measured. Finis had, for many years, suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes, and he had already been prescribed medication to address both health issues.

Dr Keagle recorded a blood pressure reading of 184/94, and he told Finis to continue with his medication. On his next check-up, Finis´ blood pressure had risen to 200/80. Dr Keagle increased Finis´ medication and told him to return in four weeks; but, two days later, Finis suffered a large hypertensive stroke.

Due to the stroke, Finis lost the use of his right arm and both his legs, and had to rely on his wife for day-to-day care. However, Finis´ wife died in tragic circumstances when she suffered a fatal asthma attack and – unable to call for help or attend to her needs – she died in front of him.

After seeking legal advice, Finis made a medical negligence claim for an avoidable stroke against Dr Keagle – alleging that as a direct proximate cause of the doctor´s failure to intervene and provide appropriate medical attention, Finis´ elevated blood pressure was allowed to elevate to the level at which he suffered a stroke.

Dr Keagle contested the medical negligence claim for an avoidable stroke, and argued that Finis´ stroke had been brought on by years of self-neglect. The defense prepared on the doctor´s behalf claimed that Finis smoked a packet of cigarettes a day and took no medications to control his diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia between 2006 and 2008.

It was also claimed by the defense that Finis had been diagnosed (in 2008) with high cholesterol and obesity, and that the stroke was not attributable to high blood pressure, but atherosclerosis – the hardening of the arteries – which had developed over many years due to Finis´ refusal to follow the advice given to him by Dr Keagle.

With no negotiated resolution to the medical negligence claim for an avoidable stroke, the case went to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, where it was heard by a jury before Judge Spiros Angelos. After a seven day hearing, and four and a half hours of deliberations, the jury returned a partial verdict in favor of Finis – assigning him 39% comparative negligence.

The adjusted settlement of his medical negligence claim for an avoidable stroke was $7.4 million and included $3.5 million for his pain and suffering, $2.6 million for future medical expenses and care needs, and $350,000 for future loss of earnings. The remainder of the settlement ($950,000) was awarded to the estate of Finis´ wife.