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Emory settles medical malpractice case over death of heart transplant patient

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | January 25, 2024
Cardiology CT Operating Room X-Ray
Emory University Hospital (Photo courtesy of Emory University)
Emory University and its healthcare system, in Atlanta, have paid an undisclosed amount to resolve the remainder of a case in the death of a heart transplant patient; following a jury trial that awarded $38.6 million to the plaintiff, making it the largest medical malpractice verdict ever made against Emory.

In November 2017, Emory surgeons performed a heart transplant on Tre’von Falson, a 20-year-old who was diagnosed with heart failure the year before and received a mechanical heart pump. When opening Falson’s chest to perform the procedure, surgeons unknowingly cut through a part of the pump that had moved to the back of his chest, leading to excessive bleeding, which caused his new heart, liver, kidney, and other organs to fail and put him in critical condition. He died a month later on Christmas day, reported The Atlantia Journal-Constitution.

Lawyers for Falson’s mother, Barbara Brown, said the medical team failed to perform a CT scan on Falson’s chest prior to the operation, a standard practice they say would have shown that part of the pump had moved.
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“Obviously nothing can bring back her son, but at the very least, she now no longer has to agonize over the millions of dollars in medical bills that accrued during Tre’von’s struggle with heart disease,” said Richard Hendrix, one of Brown’s attorneys, in a statement.

Brown filed her case in November 2018. In November 2023, a jury awarded her $30 million for the value of her son’s life, $6 million for his pain and suffering, and $2.6 million for medical expenses. The jurors absolved the surgeon who led the transplant of blame but held Emory’s heart transplant program liable for medical malpractice.

“We will continue our mission of providing high-quality, compassionate care to all patients who come to our facilities,” said Emory in response to the outcomes. “We appreciate the dedication and commitment of our many care teams across our health system.”

To end further litigation within the case, Emory agreed to the post-trial-settlement, and Brown voluntarily dismissed her case on December 14.

The terms of the settlement are confidential.

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