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Mr. Thomas – A $4,200,000 Verdict Case

The Thomas case is a medical malpractice case Jeffrey Cooper tried in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic in a courthouse in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The insurance company and its claims adjuster refused to make any settlement offer prior to trial.  The jury deliberated for approximately five hours and returned a verdict of 4.2 million, close to the amount Jeffrey asked the jury to give.

At 50 years old, Eric Thomas was getting ready to retire after a long career as a social worker for the State of Connecticut.  He and his wife Brenda were looking forward to spending their golden years together traveling and living life to the fullest.  Despite having suffered a prior stroke Eric’s neurologist was doing an excellent job with his care and had him on an effective treatment plan that included blood-thinning medication to promote blood flow to the brain.

In the fall of 2015 Eric had been dealing with a bump around his anus and decided to see his physician to see if anything could be done.  Eric was then referred to a colorectal surgeon, Dr. Hirshorn, who after taking a biopsy recommended surgery under anesthesia as soon as possible to have the bump removed due to the risk of cancer.

As part of his pre-operative instructions and without consulting the neurologist first Dr. Hirshorn told Eric to stop taking his blood-thinning medication five days prior to the procedure.  On Sept. 21, 2015, Eric underwent surgical excision of the bump at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in downtown Bridgeport.  When he awoke from surgery with the left side of his face and body paralyzed it became apparent that he was suffering from a stroke.

A CT scan showed a blood clot in the carotid artery had stopped blood flowing to the right side of Eric’s brain.  After administering a clot-busting drug with no signs of improvement Eric’s doctors decided to transfer him to Yale to undergo a highly specialized procedure known as a catheter cerebral angiogram.  Unfortunately by the time the angiogram was done the clots had migrated too far into the brain to remove them.

For several months Eric remained hospitalized not able to speak or walk.  But with Brenda by his side and after extensive rehabilitation including physical, occupational and speech therapies Eric overcame many of the odds and got himself out of the rehab center and back home with his family.

Today Eric still suffers from significant stroke related deficits including left-sided hemiparesis, aphasia, muscle spasticity and seizure disorder.  He requires around the clock supervision and help with most of his activities of daily living.  Unfortunately Eric’s conditions is a progressive one and while his physicians once again have him on a good treatment regimen his symptoms are expected to worsen over time.

It became abundantly clear to us that Dr. Hirshorn made a grave mistake by having Eric stop taking his blood-thinner five days prior to the procedure.  Anytime a patient who is on a blood-thinner interrupts his medication for an operation he is at increased risk of having another stroke until the medication can be resumed.  Sometimes this risk is justified, like in the case of life or death surgery, and other times it is not, like with many elective type surgeries.  What makes Dr. Hirshorn’s mistake even worse is the fact that Eric could have had the bump removed non-surgically without having to stop his medication.

From the very beginning Dr. Hirshorn and his lawyers defended his actions on the ground that the standard of care required surgical excision because of the risk of cancer, and that the stroke was caused by a normal drop in blood pressure during the procedure.

With the help of various experts including Eric’s treating neurologist we were able to show: one, that there were in fact reasonable alternative treatment methods besides surgery; and two, that the stroke was directly related to the viscosity of the blood that decreased the flow rate through the carotid and markedly increased the chances of clotting.

In closing argument we asked the jury for a verdict of approximately $5.5 million and they came back with a verdict of $3.2 million for Eric for his harm, and $1.0 million for Brenda for her loss of consortium.