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Mike Damaso
Mike Damaso
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Jury Clears Actor Ritter's Doctors of Medical Malpractice

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A jury verdict came down in the medical malpractice / wrongful death lawsuit of Actor John Ritter last Friday. The lawsuit was brought by Ritter’s Widow and Children. After two days of deliberation, the jury cleared a cardiologist and a radiologist of negligence. As such, there will be no damage judgment against these doctors. The family claimed that Ritter was misdiagnosed and was provided negligent medical treatment when he died from a torn aorta in 2003. Both docs were not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read. According to attorneys, they were at work.

The Plaintiff’s had already settled with 8 other defendants for $14 million and claimed Ritter’s death resulted in as much as $67 million in lost future income.

Plaintiff Attorneys attempted to prove the cardiologist rushed to a faulty diagnosis and failed to have a chest x-ray taken that would have revealed the torn aorta. This would have allowed doctors to identify the problem and perform surgery to save Ritter’s life. The Defense presented testimony that Ritter’s condition, aortic dissection, is a lethal condition and argued that Ritter would have died anyway, regardless of whether the surgery was performed. According to the article on CNN.com, when Ritter presented to the hospital, a chest X-Ray was ordered but for unknown reasons was not performed.

In recent times there have been a lot of defense verdicts in medical negligence trials. It makes me wonder if the Ritter case is one decided on the merits. Or, was the decision of the jury influenced by points of view in the media and public opinion regarding lawsuits and medical malpractice cases? Is the climate in California, one of our more liberal state, similar to Florida with respect to medical negligence cases?