$ 1.75 million settlement for death due to elevated ammonia level

The wife and two children of a 50-year-old man will received a $1.75 million settlement from doctors who failed to diagnose and treat his elevated ammonia level for three days. The wife brought her husband to the local hospital when he suddenly began acting disoriented and confused. A head CT and lumbar puncture were normal. Despite the man’s progressive disorientation, none of the doctors ordered standard lab tests, including ammonia level, which is a common cause of mental status changes. When the man became unresponsive two days into his hospitalization, an ammonia level was ordered, which showed a dramatically elevated ammonia level. The treatment ordered by the doctor on call was inadequate, and the ammonia level continued to rise. Late the next day, the man was transferred to a Boston hospital, which quickly lowered his ammonia level using aggressive treatment measures. Unfortunately, he had already suffered a brain herniation due to the elevated ammonia, and his family made the decision to withdraw life support. Specialized studies at autopsy revealed that the man was suffering from a very rare condition, which caused his elevated ammonia. Although the physicians’ insurer had refused to make any offer of settlement before trial, the case was settled for $1,750,000 after two weeks of trial.