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Ben Glass
Ben Glass
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Ritter doctors cleared of malpractice

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On Friday, March 14, a cardiologist and radiologist were cleared by a jury of medical malpractice for the diagnosis and treatment of deceased actor John Ritter. Ritter died of a torn aorta in 2003.

A majority of the jurors believed there was no time for the cardiologist summoned to the hospital after the diagnosis of a heart attack to order a chest X-ray which would have discovered the tear.

They also said the radiologist that performed a body scan on Ritter two years prior advised him of coronary problems, but not doing so was not the cause of his death.

The 9-3 verdict means there is not a damage judgment against the doctors in the wrongful death suit brought by the widow and children of Ritter. In civil cases, verdicts need not be unanimous.

Amy Yasbeck, Ritter’s widow says that she disagrees with the decision, but she still believes in the system and respects the decision. She said it further inspired her to find, alongside members of the medical community, a path to proper diagnosis of aortic diseases. She started a foundation in Ritter’s name to work on the condition.

According to the attorneys for Ritter’s family, his death resulted in a loss of future earnings of as much as $67
million. Eight other medical personnel and Providence St. Joseph Medical Center previously settled for a total of $14 million with the family.

According to defense testimony, the aortic dissection was lethal, and even surgery would not have changed the outcome.

Note from Virginia Medical Malpractice Attorney Ben Glass: this case shows that you must be able to prove all elements of a medical malpractice case. It is not enough that a doctor did something wrong (or failed to act).. the burden is always on the patient to prove that the alleged error, had it been done “a different way” would probably have made a difference in the outcome.