The internist and the avoidable lawsuit (Coverys)


Zach Hoover was a 57 year-old man, who lived in Montgomery, Alabama.

He lived in a small 1-bedroom apartment with his cat Milo.

During the week he worked as a janitor in the local high school and on weekends he volunteered at the local animal shelter.

Zach’s only real splurge was a weekly bingo night that he had been attending since his divorce finalized.

One afternoon, Zach was cleaning the high school yard, when he experienced weakness in his legs.

Over the next few days, the weakness gradually progressed until he was barely able to get around without the help of a cane.

One Friday evening he had had enough.

He filled up Milo’s food bowl to the brim, zipped up his jacket, and called a taxi to take him to the emergency room.

When Zach arrived at the Emergency Department, he was examined by a young attending physician, Dr. Tia Pearson.

The conversation was slow and meandering.

Zach complained about how his weakness was affecting all aspects of his life.

“I live only a few blocks from here but I still had to take a taxi.”

He complained. Dr. Pearson listened carefully and questioned Zach more about his condition.

“Have you experienced any chest pain lately?

Shortness of breath, headache, or vomiting?” Zach said no.

He was generally quite healthy, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, and had even stopped eating red meat and processed foods.

On physical examination, the heart, lung, and abdominal examinations were all normal.

“Since your problem isn’t specific enough, I want to run some blood tests and an ECG.”

Dr. Pearson explained to Zach.

He agreed and after the tests were run, he waited patiently for the results.

When lab results came in they showed hyperkalemia - high potassium levels, so Dr. Pearson arranged for Zach to get admitted to the hospital and started ordering some medications to help lower his potassium levels.

The nurses administered IV medication to treat the hyperkalemia, and got him ready for his hospital admission.

Within a few hours, another set of labs was ordered - this time by Dr. Carr who was the doctor in charge of all overnight admissions.

When the results came back, Dr. Carr went into Zach’s room to wake him up.

“Zach, we reran your labs and this time the results came back completely normal.