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$4 Million Settlement In Brain Injury Medical Malpractice Case

Commissioners in Cook County approved a settlement of almost $4 million in a medical malpractice case. Plaintiff Jaime Flores brought the claim against the John F. Stroger Jr. Hospital, which was previously known as Cook County Hospital, as well as Dr. Douglas Smego and Dr. Michael Vercillo. Flores underwent heart surgery at the facility and ended up with a permanent brain injury.

The defendants were alleged to have demonstrated negligence by deciding to perform a pericardiocentesis on Flores in his bed instead of transferring him to a laboratory where such procedures are typically completed. During the surgery, Flores’ right ventricle was pierced and he fell into cardiac arrest and a lack of oxygen resulted in damage to the brain.

County Response

John Jay Shannon, the CEO of the Cook County Health System, spoke at a news conference following the approved settlement and neither admitted nor denied the allegations of medical negligence. He explained that the organization intends to conduct a root cause analysis and may identify ways they can improve the quality of the care they offer. Toni Preckwinkle, the board’s president, said they hope the settlement will provide some degree of closure for those impacted by the outcome.

Other Settlements & Controversy

One month ago the commission approved a $6.45 million settlement for another heart-surgery related claim that led to the death of a 55-year-old woman. Meanwhile, Preckwinkle, the board president, has been facing questions regarding accepting large donations from a law firm involved in the case toward her campaign for mayor. The firm says that they routinely make such donations to those who advocate for causes such as nursing home abuse and violations of civil rights.

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Following the settlement approval, Mr. Shannon stated that the health system was going to be conducting a root cause analysis (RCA) regarding the allegations of medical negligence. These types of studies may involve the following:

  • An RCA is a method of analytically identifying causes of harmful events in order to establish a plan to prevent them from occurring in the future.
  • Teams look for contributing factors beyond those that resulted from human error.
  • The teams will typically conduct a series of interviews with parties involved.
  • A visual model or diagram is usually generated to illustrate their findings.

What is Pericardiocentesis?

Pericardiocentesis is also referred to as being a pericardial tap. The process involves using a needle and catheter to drain an accumulation of fluid that surrounds the heart. Once extracted, the fluid can be tested to determine if cancer or other conditions exist. There are three primary reasons for a pericardiocentesis:

  • To uncover the reason for fluid accumulation around the heart
  • A means of relief for a patient experiencing shortness of breath
  • As a means of diagnosing infections or cancer

Brain Injuries

Even minor brain injuries may have serious results. They are usually the result of a strong impact to the head region and the individual may lose consciousness. In this case, the patient’s brain was damaged when the flow of oxygen was restricted. The severity may range from relatively minor concussions to life-altering traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Moderate-to-severe head injuries may lead to memory loss, blurred vision, paralysis and more.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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