Peter Sfameni’s health was declining quickly. His lower back was in constant agony, his weight was rapidly declining, and he was always tired. Finally, at the end of 2010, he became so concerned with his condition that he went to the emergency room at the Rhode Island Hospital. Doctors initially believed that Sfameni might be suffering from lymphoma. He was told to stop taking his blood thinners so that he could undergo a colonoscopy. His doctors, John Ryan and Eric Winer, then allegedly kept him off his blood thinners so they could run a biopsy.
According to a 2013 medical malpractice lawsuit, filed on behalf of Sfameni, he was told after the procedure that they had accidentally performed a bone-marrow biopsy instead of the planned lymph-node procedure. He was supposed to resume taking his blood thinners, but he still had to have the second biopsy on his lymph-nodes, so he was told to wait. It was then that Sfameni developed severe blood clots in his legs and lungs that were potentially life threatening. He became very sick and was rushed back to the hospital. The attending emergency room physician stabilized the patient by treating him with anti-coagulants, but Sfameni, then 55, ended up losing his right leg.
After four years of litigation, Sfameni and the hospital could not come to a settlement. The case went to trial in the Providence County Superior Court in Sept 2017. At the conclusion of the trial it took just eight hours of deliberation for the Rhode Island jury to come back with a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury awarded Sfameni $40 million in damages. They also included another $21.6 million in interest. The lawyers representing Sfameni told the press that the $61.6 million verdict is the largest medical malpractice lawsuit award in the state’s history.
“This jury followed the law and delivered an impartial verdict,” said one of the attorneys representing Sfameni. “I respect the hard work that they did.”
It is not clear if LifeSpan, the owner of the Rhode Island Hospital, will appeal the ruling. What is clear, however, is that the hospital and LifeSpan were hoping for a different outcome.
“Rhode Island Hospital is disappointed in Thursday’s ruling,” said a spokesperson for LifeSpan. “The hospital strongly believes our physicians made the appropriate clinical decision after careful consideration of the patient’s condition and medical history.”