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BURKE v. KUMAR, M.D.

Partner Michael A. Zuk successfully defended a physician accused of wrongfully causing the death of plaintiff’s decedent in this matter.  The patient was admitted to the hospital under the care of Dr. Kumar with progressive shortness of breath, fever, weakness, and fatigue.  He was a chemotherapy patient who was treated for multiple myeloma and had responded well to his chemotherapy.  Even though statistically the patient was at a higher risk for developing deep vein thromboses and was also at risk for pulmonary embolism, based on the patient’s profile, Dr. Kumar did not believe it necessary to order prophylactic anti-coagulant medication at admission.  Plaintiff’s experts were critical of his decision not to do so.  Moreover, plaintiff’s experts believed that the patient had potential for pulmonary embolism based on the presenting symptoms and faulted Dr. Kumar for not ordering appropriate screening tests.  While hospitalized, the patient underwent surgery to remove one of the sources of his infection which was located in the jaw.  Approximately one day following the surgery the patient deteriorated and Dr. Kumar diagnosed pulmonary embolism.  Plaintiff’s experts were critical of his response to the changing condition, claiming that Dr. Kumar waited too long to run appropriate diagnostic tests to rule in pulmonary embolism and failed to order the appropriate therapeutic medication in a timely fashion.  The defense was able to establish that since the patient was post-operative, Dr. Kumar needed to definitively rule in pulmonary embolism before starting medication for the patient’s deterioration, which could have been explained by other, albeit less likely, possibilities.  Further, the defense was able to establish that Dr. Kumar’s judgment in not ordering prophylactic mediation for the patient was an appropriate judgment decision based on the entirety of the patient’s presenting situation.  Plaintiff’s decedent was an extremely successful businessman earning well over a quarter million dollars per year, and plaintiffs’ contended he would work 5 to 10 more years had he survived the hospitalization.  The three week trial in Van Nuys, CA resulted in an 11-1 defense verdict following three and ½ hours of deliberations.