Jury awards $1.1 million in death of woman, 45

April 17, 2002|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury has awarded $1.1 million to the estate and family of a 45-year-old Johns Hopkins University employee who died of a cerebral aneurysm two years ago after being wrongly diagnosed as having a sinus headache.

The six-person jury found Dr. Gunta Alberts Wheeler liable late Monday afternoon for the damages, but not Union Memorial Hospital, where the doctor worked.

Lawyers for Jane Tierney, the mother of Nancy J. Tierney, argued that the doctor should have recognized signs of an aneurysm and given her daughter a brain scan, which would have revealed the bleeding, according to attorney Philip C. Federico.

"Our client thought that something catastrophic was going on, and she was told it was nonlife-threatening," said Federico in an interview. "They invented the CAT scan for exactly this kind of patient."

Defense attorney Barbara Ayers said that Wheeler did not commit malpractice.

"This woman had a history of sinus infection, and she presented with the symptoms of a severe sinus problem," Ayers said.

After visiting Union Memorial Hospital's emergency department April 22, 2000, to complain about head pain, she was sent home, where she suffered a seizure April 24 because of a cerebral aneurysm.

She was pronounced dead the next day at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Her mother, Jane Tierney, worked as a nurse for Union Memorial for 45 years until she retired 12 years ago.

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