MEDICAL MALPRACTICE AND PERSONAL INJURY LAW BLOG

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Unanimous Jury Verdict In Malpractice Case Involving Surgical Mistake

Diana Arrenholz had a surgical procedure performed to extract her pacemaker using laser extraction at OSF Healthcare’s Saint Francis Medical Center. A pacemaker is implanted in a patient to control irregular heart rhythms. During the surgery, her heart and blood vessels were accidentally damaged by the laser, causing her death. The surviving family brought a medical malpractice claim in the Peoria County Circuit Court. A 12-member jury found that the defendant was liable for the fatality.

Victim Detail

Following the jury verdict, Todd Arrenholz, her son, thanked the jury for hearing the case. He hopes that the case will serve as a reminder of the importance of adhering to the proper standards of medical care. Mrs. Arrenholz, who was 64-years-old at the time, was retired from Pekin Hospital where she worked in a medical records department.

Jury Ruling

A plaintiff attorney stated that the jurors were “good and decent people” and he praised their efforts to hold the medical providers “responsible” for the harm they had caused. He further explained that the hospital staff had demonstrated poor preparation when conducting surgical procedures. The family was awarded approximately $2.5 million in damages. Saint Francis Medical Center released a statement expressing condolences. The jury deliberated for only one hour before returning a verdict.

Purpose of Pacemakers

Individuals may have a heart irregularity such as an arrhythmia. The heart may beat too fast, too slow, etc. Those with this condition may be unable to circulate enough blood through the system and experience fatigue or fainting. A pacemaker works to maintain some regularity within the heart so the individual can function more normally.

Pacemaker Extraction

The pacemaker is implanted using wire leads that attach to the heart. This lead carries an electric current capable of shocking the heart when an abnormality is detected. It is possible that over time this region may develop an infection. A pulse generator within the device may begin to malfunction over time also. In these situations, a surgical procedure is necessary to extract the leads or pulse generator and implant a replacement(s). The removal of wire leads does present a possible risk of heart damage.

Jury Deliberation Facts

In this Arrenholz case, the jury returned a verdict after merely deliberating for a one-hour period. A study at Northwestern University explains that the majority of juries begin to engage in exchanging “substantive” discussions within the first 10 minutes of deliberations. Their research also reported a host of other findings relating to the amount of time that juries use in reaching a verdict as follows:

  • A jury composed of six people will arrive at a verdict no quicker than those consisting of 12 people
  • Juries take longer to arrive at a verdict as the case increases in complexity and/or severity
  • Juries who arrive at a unanimous decision do so quicker than when the jurors are split on their opinion
  • Reaching a verdict tends to take more time when higher damages are involved
  • In civil matters, a jury tends to take longer when they reach a verdict where the plaintiff prevails
  • In criminal trials, juries tend to arrive at a guilty verdict quicker than when they decide to acquit.

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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