RRD Partner John F. Costa Obtains Defense Verdict in Wrongful Death Trial

April 3, 2012

On March 28, 2012, RRD continued its recent string of defense verdicts when a New Haven jury found in favor of the firm's client after an hour of deliberations. RRD partner John Costa represented the defendant, an internist and medical director of a rehabilitation facility, against claims that he negligently discontinued the patient's anticoagulation medication resulting in the death of the patient from a massive pulmonary embolism six weeks after discharge from the rehabilitation facility.  The estate of the 40 year-old decedent was represented by one of the preeminent plaintiffs law firms in the state of Connecticut.  The lowest settlement demand prior to trial was $3.8 million.


The decedent was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident during the late evening of July 30, 2005.  He was treated at a local hospital and was started on DVT (deep vein thrombosis) prophylaxis the following day due to a significant pelvic fracture.  Three days after surgery, the patient was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism and an IVC (inferior vena cava) filter was placed because full therapeutic anticoagulation was determined by the hospital physicians to be contraindicated.  The patient was maintained on DVT prophylaxis throughout the hospitalization as well as throughout his stay at the rehabilitation facility, where RRD's client took over responsibility for the medical management of the patient.  Upon discharge from the rehabilitation facility on August 30, 2005, the defendant internist discontinued DVT prophylaxis.  The patient died of extensive and multiple pulmonary emboli on October 16, 2005.


Attorney Costa's defense involved three main points.  First, it was emphasized that "therapeutic anticoagulation is not DVT prophylaxis" as the dosage of Lovenox, an anticoagulant, which would be given for purposes of therapeutic anticoagulation, would be four to five times more than the low dose which was given for DVT prophylaxis.  Second, through medical literature and expert testimony, the defense was able to show that there is no appreciable difference in the rate of death from pulmonary embolism when comparing patients who have an IVC filter in place with concomitant anticoagulation therapy and patients with an IVC filter alone.  Third, the defense argued that if a large, therapeutic dose of anticoagulation therapy was not shown to provide any appreciable benefit in preventing fatal pulmonary embolus, it stood to reason that a small, prophylactic dose would similarly have no effect in preventing fatal pulmonary embolus. 


After deliberating for less than an hour after a six day trial, the jury agreed and returned a verdict in favor of the firm's client.