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MDLinxIllinois Jury Awards $41 Million to Stroke Victim

The case highlights the critical importance of vigilant INR monitoring in anticoagulated patients to prevent adverse outcomes.

A recent malpractice case in Illinois concluded with a jury awarding $41 million to Craig Pierce, a former lawyer who experienced a debilitating stroke allegedly due to insufficient monitoring of his INR levels while on Coumadin. This case reminds doctors of the importance of diligent anticoagulation management and the potential consequences of lapses in patient care coordination among healthcare providers.

Key Points:

  • Malpractice Allegation: Craig Pierce’s INR levels were allegedly not adequately monitored while taking Coumadin, leading to a significant stroke.
  • Stroke Incident: Pierce experienced a massive stroke resulting in left-sided paralysis four weeks after hospital discharge.
  • Historic Verdict: The $41 million award is believed to be the largest ever granted to someone over the age of 70 in Illinois.
  • Initial Hospitalization: Pierce was admitted to St. Francis Hospital with pneumonia and subsequently developed acute kidney injury requiring short-term dialysis.
  • Anticoagulation Therapy: During hospitalization, Pierce was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and prescribed Coumadin by Dr. Barry Clemson, who recommended daily INR monitoring.
  • Discharge Oversight: Despite continued dialysis, blood testing for INR levels was not included in discharge planning.
  • Dialysis Facility: Pierce received dialysis at a Fresenius Medical Care facility, under the direction of Dr. Sudha Cherukuri, where INR levels dropped dangerously without adjustment of Coumadin dosage.
  • Stroke Consequences: Pierce suffered a large right middle cerebral artery stroke, resulting in loss of independent function and cognitive difficulties, requiring 24-hour care from his family.
  • Lawsuit Details: Pierce and his wife filed a malpractice suit in 2020 against Dr. Cherukuri, Fresenius Medical Care, RenalCare Associates, and OSF HealthCare System, alleging negligence and gross mismanagement.
  • Trial Outcome: After a month of testimony, the jury ruled against all defendants, awarding a total of $41 million plus pre-judgment interest, bringing the award to approximately $44.86 million.
  • Implications for Clinical Practice: The case highlights the necessity for clear responsibility and vigilant monitoring in anticoagulation therapy, particularly during transitions of care.

“Over time, unusually large verdicts can become the new usual, because each large verdict pushes upward on plaintiffs’ damages from other tried cases.”
– Robert E. White, Jr., President of TDC Group

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