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Farley v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

April 3, 2015

Jeanice Farley, individually and on behalf of Michael Farley, an incompetent adult
v.
United States of America

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Jeanice Farley, Individually, and on behalf of Michael Farley other, Michael Farley, Plaintiff: Jamal K. Alsaffar, Tom Jacob, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Whitehurst Harkness Brees Cheng Alsaffar & Higginbotham PLLC, Austin, TX; Lawrence A. Vogelman, Nixon Vogelman Barry Slawsky & Simoneau PA, Manchester, NH.

For USA, Defendant: T. David Plourde, U.S. Attorney's Office (NH), Concord, NH.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Landya McCafferty, United States District Judge.

In October of 2010, Michael Farley experienced symptoms including the loss of his peripheral vision and a painful headache. A veteran of the United States Navy, Mr. Farley sought treatment at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire (" Manchester VA" ). There, Mr. Farley was examined and given a series of tests, and he learned that he had suffered a stroke.

It is a basic principle of medicine that a patient who has suffered a stroke is generally at an elevated risk of suffering a second stroke. Therefore, doctors who are treating stroke patients must be cognizant of this risk, and they must take steps to prevent a second stroke from occurring. As such, the established standard of care requires that a stroke patient undergo a thorough diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of his stroke, and it requires that the patient be prescribed certain medication to treat the underlying condition that caused the stroke to occur.

Unfortunately, Mr. Farley's doctors at the Manchester VA did not adhere to this standard of care. They failed to provide him with an adequate diagnostic evaluation, and as a result, they carelessly prescribed him the wrong medication. In the words of one of the expert witnesses, Mr. Farley was " medically abandoned" by his doctors.

Approximately six weeks after his initial visit to the Manchester VA, Mr. Farley suffered a second stroke. This second stroke was massive, and it left Mr. Farley with " locked-in" syndrome, meaning that he remains fully conscious, but has no voluntary muscle movement other than the very limited ability to move his eyes and his head.

Now, Mr. Farley's wife, Jeanice Farley, has brought suit on his behalf under the Federal Tort Claims Act (" FTCA" ), 28 U.S.C. § § 2671 et al. The court held a four-day bench trial from October 21 to October 24, 2014. After considering the trial testimony and the record evidence, it is the finding of this court that two of Mr. Farley's doctors at the Manchester VA committed medical malpractice and are legally responsible for failing to prevent Mr. Farley's second stroke from occurring. This memorandum and order will more fully set forth the court's findings of fact and rulings of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).

Findings of Fact

I. The Expert Witnesses

The court's understanding of the complex issues involved in this case was aided by expert testimony offered by both parties. The following expert witnesses testified on behalf of the Farleys regarding liability:[1]

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o Dr. Bruce Charash, a cardiologist at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

o Dr. James Frey, a stroke neurologist at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
o Dr. Kenneth Stein, an emergency room doctor at St. Anthony's Medical Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
o Dr. J. Neal Rutledge, a neurointerventional surgeon from Austin, Texas.

The following expert witnesses testified on behalf of the government:

o Dr. David Greer, a neurologist and the director of the stroke service at Yale University Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.
o Dr. Warren Manning, the section chief of non-invasive cardiac imaging at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts.
o Dr. Louis Caplan, a neurologist and senior member of the stroke service, also at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
o Dr. Anthony Kim, a stroke neurologist and the medical director at the University of California San Francisco Stroke Center.[2]

At points throughout this memorandum and order, the court has included specific credibility findings pertinent to individual expert witnesses. However, the court notes that, on many occasions, the expert witnesses testified regarding issues beyond their immediate fields of specialty. For example, several of the neurologists testified regarding ...


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