A Powerful Statement of Justice

Following a two-week trial in Cook County, Illinois in May, 2019, the jury returned a verdict for $3,000,000. The Plaintiff in the case was an adult woman (with two young boys of her own) who lost her mother in July, 2014. Sarah Crayton was a 61-year-old woman who originated from the South Side of Chicago. She had returned to the area after retiring from a 30+ year career with the Post Office. She planned to be closer to her roots and care for her own elderly mother.

Over many years, Sarah had experienced increasing symptoms of shortness of breath. Doctors had told her that she suffered from a condition called “pulmonary hypertension.” In her situation, tightness in the heart and lungs required her heart to work harder than usual to pump her blood to the lungs. This stresses the heart. And it gets worse over time.

Sarah was checked by staff at the University of Chicago, including a specialist in pulmonary hypertension: Dr. Mardi Gomberg-Maitland. Testing showed issues including a new heart rhythm problem. Sarah needed a “cardioversion” to put her heart back into regular rhythm.

Procedure that Changed a Family

After the heart-shock procedure to address the rhythm, Dr. Gomberg decided to do a diagnostic test to measure pressure in the heart. This procedure involved placing a catheter through the skin and into Sarah’s artery in her leg (near the groin) to go up to the heart.

Jim Coogan and Caroleann Gallagher represented Sarah’s daughter at trial. On behalf of Shamona Nichols, they claimed that Dr. Gomberg should not have done the procedure because of Sarah’s condition and the information that doctors already knew without performing the catheterization. Based upon expert cardiologist testimony, the Plaintiff also claimed that the limited potential benefit to Sarah was outweighed by the risk of damage to the artery, including internal bleeding if the any damage resumed bleeding after the procedure.

As the catheter was being removed, there was bleeding under the skin. Doctors determined there was a problem with the artery wall. Another doctor at University of Chicago injected a chemical into the artery wall to clot the hole. After 3 more days of observation, doctors sent Sarah home.

A Tragic Development

Sarah Crayton was very independent. She drove herself home from the hospital after spending 3 nights there following the catheter procedure. But overnight, something happened. Very early in the morning, she felt pain and asked for a pain pill. A little later, she cried out for help.

Paramedics were called and Sarah was taken to a (different) hospital. There, doctors determined that she had resumed bleeding from the same place in her artery where the catheter was inserted. The internal bleeding sapped her organs of blood flow. The damage was fatal. Despite the doctors’ best efforts to save her, Sarah succumbed to her injuries and died after monitoring for another day in the hospital.

This loss was sudden. Shamona Nichols knew her mother had some health limitations, but expected more time with her mom and the grandmother to her son. Later, it would have meant that her younger son could also meet his grandma. And as an adult mother of two, it meant Shamona lost her confidant and her best friend–someone she could turn to in life for counsel and guidance.

Justice in Court

Our lawyers at Dwyer & Coogan recognized that the only way to secure justice for Shamona would be to see this case through trial. They found the expert witnesses necessary to present the case, combed through thousands of pages of records to identify the key medical evidence, spent hundreds of hours with over 20 witnesses piecing together the puzzle of who Sarah was, her medical treatment, and why the evidence proved she did not have to die this way. They were dedicated to proving what was lost and why justice demanded a serious statement even if it could not replace five years without Shamona’s mother. The jury agreed and entered a verdict for Shamona and Sarah and against Dr. Gomberg for $3,000,000.

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