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Partner Paul da Costa Obtains $1M Settlement in Wrongful Death vs. US

By Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa LLC on October 18, 2017


Partner, Paul M. da Costa, and Associate, Dan Devinney, represented the estate of a 56-year old Army veteran relating to treatment rendered to him at the East Orange VA Hospital. The decedent underwent surgery to remove a lung that contained a malignant mass, and he was maintained on mechanical ventilation after the surgery was completed. The decedent was taken off of mechanical ventilation, i.e., extubated, on the second post-operative morning. It was alleged by Paul’s client that it was not medically indicated to extubate the decedent; rather, the decedent required ongoing respiratory support via mechanical ventilation. Furthermore, once the decedent was extubated, his clinical presentation and arterial blood gas results revealed that the decedent was not able to sustain the extubation. On the contrary, the decedent was in respiratory distress for approximately four hours before he coded and passed away

Paul conducted numerous depositions of attending physicians, resident physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists. Sadly, almost every VA witness admitted that the decedent was prematurely extubated, and they acknowledged that he should have been placed back on mechanical ventilation. To that end, Paul’s deposition skills resulted in the responsible respiratory therapist admitting that the decedent was “circling the drain” within thirty minutes of the decedent being extubated. In addition, several attending physicians admitted that the VA’s own protocols relating to the extubation of patients were violated

There were not any economic losses claimed; rather, claimed damages were the physical pain and suffering relating to the approximate four hours that the decedent was off of mechanical ventilation before he passed away. The decedent’s autopsy revealed, among other things, that there were an abundant amount secretions throughout the decedent’s airway. It was alleged that the secretions accumulated over the four hours that the decedent was off of mechanical ventilation. Although the Defendant United States of America would have stipulated to liability and causation if the case went to trial based on the deposition testimony elicited by Paul, the United States maintained that the decedent died acutely from a mucus plug in his airway. 

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