Defense Verdict Secured in Kings County Mesenteric Ischemia Case

Defense Verdict Secured in Kings County Mesenteric Ischemia Case

Senior Trial Partners Jeff Lawton and Aryeh S. Klonsky, obtained a defense verdict on behalf of our gastroenterologist client and his practice in February 2024 before the Hon. Consuelo Mallafre Melendez in New York Supreme Court, Kings County.

The case involved an alleged failure to diagnose and treat mesenteric ischemia resulting in the death of the then 74-year-old wife, mother and grandmother.  The decedent had been treated with the co-defendant vascular surgeon for surgical management of an abdominal aneurysm in 2011 with placement of a stent-graft.  The co-defendant vascular surgeon followed the decedent with annual abdominal imaging studies to monitor the stent-graft.

Beginning in January 2016, the decedent reported abdominal complaints to the co-defendant internist. On June 6, 2016, the co-defendant internist referred the decedent to our client, a gastroenterologist, secondary to weight loss and abdominal complaints. The decedent presented to our client on June 13, 2016 and reported abdominal discomfort with indigestion, decreased appetite, and 30 lb. weight loss in six months. As part of his work-up, our client recommended endoscopy with biopsy performed on June 16, 2016 to rule out cancer, and malabsorption disorders.  Endoscopy was normal and gastric biopsy was negative for cancer.  The decedent returned to our client’s office on June 24, 2016 with complaints of lower abdominal pain, decreased energy, and continued weight loss. Our client diagnosed intestinal malabsorption, wrote a script for Abdominal/Pelvic CT, and recommended colonoscopy.  The studies were never performed. 

During the evening of June 26, 2016, the decedent presented to a hospital with unspecified “on and off” abdominal pain for six months, anorexia, vomiting, and diarrhea. An abdominal CT showed dilated loops of jejunum suggesting possible ileus versus partial obstruction. Several hours later, abdominal x-ray ruled out obstruction and she was discharged back home with anti-nausea medication.  Several hours later, on June 27, 2016, she returned to the same hospital’s ER, with increased complaints of severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.  She was rushed into exploratory surgery for suspected mesenteric ischemia, whereby the vascular surgeon performed an ileal superior mesenteric artery bypass to restore blood flow to the bowel. The following day, the small bowel was determined to be no longer viable, and the decedent expired on June 29, 2016.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued that the defendants should have considered mesenteric ischemia in their differential diagnosis and should have referred her to a vascular surgeon to restore blood flow to the small intestines before it was too late.

During the trial, the defense argued that our client appropriately evaluated the decedent and appropriately performed endoscopy, with a plan for CT of the abdomen and pelvis and colonoscopy. The defense also argued that even though our client did not diagnose mesenteric ischemia, his work-up for suspected cancer in June 2016 was entirely appropriate.

After a three-week trial, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict to our client, but found liability against the co-defendant vascular surgeon and co-defendant internist, and awarded $3 million to the decedent’s family.