The Connecticut Court of Appeals recently affirmed a jury’s verdict in favor of a cardiologist in a medical malpractice suit. In Guerri v. Fiengo, a decedent’s estate alleged multiple breaches of the doctor’s duty of care, including a duty to consult with the decedent’s treating physician. The trial court refused to submit this particular negligence allegation to the jury. On appeal, the decedent’s estate argued that the trial court erred in doing so.
The decedent, Craig S. Guerri, went to the emergency room of Groton’s Pequot Treatment Center on December 17, 2006, complaining of chest pains and left-arm numbness. He underwent an electrocardiogram, which showed an “abnormal result.” A physician on duty in the emergency room diagnosed Guerri with “atypical chest wall pain” and discharged him. Later that morning, the on-call cardiologist at a nearby hospital, Dr. Mark Fiengo, reviewed Guerri’s electrocardiogram. The court’s opinion notes that about eighty percent of the electrocardiograms reviewed by Fiengo had “abnormal results.” Fiengo determined that Guerri’s electrocardiogram showed no “critical values,” defined by the hospital as any test result that would cause a patient a “serious adverse outcome” if reporting were delayed. Fiengo therefore took no further action.
Three days later, on December 20, Guerri died. The medical examiner identified the cause of death as a “myocardial infarction” resulting from a “spontaneous dissection of the coronary artery.” The hospital’s policy identifies four electrocardiogram results that it considers “critical values,” one of which is a suspected myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack.