Lorraine Chang was a 55 year old postal worker who underwent an elective gallbladder removal in a Miami hospital in 2012. The surgery itself seemed uneventful and Mrs. Chang was alert and awake in recovery. She was transferred to a regular room at 3:00 p.m. but was experiencing severe abdominal pain. The following day she developed a significant temperature. Her pain was so intense that she was placed on a pain pump which was to be administered by anesthesia. In addition to fever, Ms. Chang had developed an increased white blood cell count and had developed low blood pressure which symptoms are consistent with sepsis or a blood infection. The nursing staff did not call the surgeon to report the abnormal temperature or abnormal lab work. Instead, the nursing staff called a hospitalist who did not attend to the patient’s symptoms.
On the following day, she was transferred to Intensive Care Unit in severe critical condition from her hospital room. Her blood pressure was only 66/31 and her heart rate at this point had dropped to 49. She was in complete organ failure and her blood work evidenced an overwhelming infection. She died the following morning due to septic shock. A subsequent autopsy showed that a bile duct was cut or severed during the original surgery which caused leakage into her abdomen and peritonitis. Unfortunately, at the time of her death Mrs. Chang did not leave any minor children and had recently gotten married a year before. Thus, even though the recent spouse was the only survivor, the law firm of Fenster and Cohen was able to secure a substantial settlement for her husband.