A jury awarded $6.4 million to the five young children of a Philadelphia man after finding that emergency room doctors misdiagnosed a heart condition as pneumonia and discharged him from the hospital only for him to die months later.
After seven days of testimony in May 2012, the Philadelphia jury found that Robert M. McNamara, M.D., Marsha W. Edwards, M.D. and Temple University Hospital were negligent in the care of Derrick Harlem, 38.
The verdict is believed to be among the largest medical malpractice awards involving a death in Pennsylvania in years.
Jurors reached the verdict three years to the day after Harlem’s misdiagnosed heart condition.
“This is a fair and just verdict,” said Matt Casey, a founding partner at Ross Feller Casey, LLP who litigated the case on behalf of Harlem’s children. “These young children lost their dad, and no amount of money can replace him. They would gladly give the money back for more time with their dad.”
On the afternoon of May 31, 2009, Harlem passed out while playing basketball and was transported to the emergency department of Temple University Hospital with severe chest pain. Despite symptoms consistent with a heart attack - chest pains, shortness of breath and nausea - Harlem was diagnosed with pneumonia and released from the emergency department later that day after being given Motrin and Azithromycin.
Three months later, Harlem again passed out while playing basketball on the same North Philadelphia court and was again taken to Temple University Hospital emergency department. This time, he had suffered a massive heart attack as a result of what had become a complete blockage of one of the main arteries of the heart.
Harlem remained in a pharmacologically induced coma until his death on November 12, 2009. He left behind five children who are now ages 3-11.
The $6.41 million verdict includes $5.5 million for the loss of guidance, tutelage and moral upbringing. Harlem was not working at the time of his death and there was no claim made for lost wages. Nor was there a spousal claim as Harlem was not married.
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