Mount Sinai Hospital ordered to pay $8 million in woman's death

By Deana Carpenter | Jul 14, 2016

CHICAGO – Mount Sinai Medical Hospital of Chicago was found negligent in the death of 41-year-old Joya Pipkin in April, and now must pay $8 million to her son, Ronald Willis Jr.

Willis was represented by the Deratany Firm in Chicago.

The Cook County jury ruled that Pipkin died as the result of a failed "code blue" alert after she was sedated on Jan. 16, 2009. 

Mount Sinai Medical Hospital was found to be negligent because it did not have a proper protocol for "code blue" events to resuscitate patients who have negative reactions to sedation.

Additionally, Pipkin’s doctor, Mysore Bhagavan, was found not to have been negligent in the case. A doctor with whom Bhagavan consulted, Krishnaswamy Anand, settled out of court for $1 million. Anand’s employer, Sinai Medical Group, also settled out of court for $1 million.

Pipkin was first admitted to the hospital Jan. 4, 2009. At that time, she suffered from chronic cellulitis in her left leg, diabetes, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. She then developed hospital-acquired pneumonia and shortness of breath. Eventually, Pipkin started to suffer from nausea and vomiting again after it had subsided for a period of time.

“Basically she started to have some lung issues,” said attorney Michael Barry of the firm of Pretzel & Stouffer, of Chicago, who represented Bhagavan“Dr. Bhagavan consulted with a doctor who recommended the workup for an EGD."

Bhagavan consulted with Anand, an internist. Anand recommended an elective esophagogastroduodenoscopy, or EGD, with a biopsy to figure out the cause of Pipkin's gastrointestinal issues. He attempted the procedure on Jan. 16, 2009. After 19 minutes of conscious sedation, Pipkin became unresponsive and stopped breathing.

More than seven minutes went by before a doctor was present to start to perform resuscitation. Pipkin suffered irreversible brain damage and eventually died on Feb. 9, 2009.

Her son, Willis, was 14 years old at the time.

According to the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter, the estate believed Bhagavan failed to diagnose and treat the pneumonia, and both he and Anand failed to recognize warning signs that Pipkin was not able to tolerate conscious sedation.

The estate also argued that Mount Sinai Hospital workers did not perform chest compressions or ventilation in a timely manner, and did not have a policy in place for "code blue" events.

Mount Sinai Hospital’s defense contended that nurses did administer reversal agents and ventilation after Anand ordered them to do so, according to the Jury Verdict Reporter. It also stated that the hospital did not need a written policy for codes in the EGD area because of how close it was to the surgical suite where anesthesiologists were stationed.

“There was nothing contraindicative from a medical standpoint for the EGD proceeding forward,” Barry said. “For Dr. Bhagavan, the defense was that he consulted multiple physicians to help assist and treat the patient. We thought it was a very defensible case on behalf of Dr. Bhagavan. ... We thought it was the right verdict. We’re happy the jury decided in his favor.”

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