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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Cop Dies During 3-Way Sex. Despite Cries of “Frivolous”, Facts & Law Rule the Outcome

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When a 31-year-old police officer was diagnosed with uncontrolled hypertension (despite taking prescribed blood pressure medicine) and an aortic aneurysm, his primary care physician referred him to a cardiovascular specialist. An echocardiogram showed left ventricular hypertrophy (a condition where the muscles in the central pumping chamber of the heart are thickened due to high blood pressure) and extensive calcium deposits on in his coronary arteries. The patient was advised to maintain a healthy diet and weight, begin an exercise regimen, and prescribed medication for high cholesterol.

In March 2009, the officer was experiencing chest pain; once again his primary care physician referred him to the same cardiovascular specialist. This time, the cardiologist advised the officer to schedule a stress test and take nitroglycerin for chest pain, as needed. However, the doctor did not stress any urgency for an emergency or immediate appointment nor did he instruct the officer to discontinue physical activity or his exercise regimen until a cardiac workup was completed. The day before his stress test was scheduled, the police officer died; the cause of death was coronary heart disease.

The victim’s wife filed a lawsuit against the cardiologist claiming the doctor did not properly diagnose and treat her husband for high blood pressure, chest pains, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat. The lawsuit also claimed the doctor did not warn her husband to avoid strenuous physical activity until more tests could be done. A jury found the doctor 60% negligent and awarded the plaintiff $3 million.

The victim’s wife received justice for the doctor’s negligence; this story made headline news, but not because justice was done. The victim could have died from virtually any strenuous activity, but tort reform idiots went ballistic with this case. Why? Because the activity the officer engaged in immediately prior to his death was three-way sex with a friend and a woman who was not his wife. Articles about the verdict produced a barrage of comments from “citizens” who made jokes about the situation and whined that this was a “frivolous” lawsuit.

It does not surprise me that the story resulted in snickers and sarcasm; “woman gets $3 million dollars and gets rid of her cheating husband” is a salacious headline. However, the seriousness of these medical error issues should prevail after the initial chuckles, don’t you think? This man’s infidelity; his activity at the time of his death were hardly important issues. Those who would like to punish victims and benefit corporations and professionals that injure and kill them would like you to believe this is one of those “funny” or “outrageous” outcomes. But, like the “Hot Coffee” case, when you know the truth, these cases are no laughing matters.

You see, doctors know that when the body goes into more strenuous activity, the heart must work harder and is under greater stress. This cardiologist screwed up (lay terminology for “committed malpractice”); the physical demands of the officer’s job alone should have been enough for the doctor to warn him about engaging in strenuous activity. What if the man died in chasing a bank robber, would you be laughing? What if he was trying to save someone’s life and collapsed in the process (putting an innocent citizen in great danger), would you find this funny? What if he collapsed and died while working out with fellow colleagues at the gym, would this be an outrageous example of why we need more corporate welfare at the expense of injured citizens (tort reform)? Isn’t it time we all grew up? Because this case involved promiscuous S-E-X at the time of death, people cannot see the forest through the trees. To them, this case isn’t about malpractice; it’s about SEX. Well…wrong! It’s about malpractice and only malpractice. It is about a tragic event with a horrible, yet completely preventable outcome. And that is what a jury, which heard all of the evidence, found in this case. It is not “funny”; it is not “frivolous”. So, please, spare me the phony cries for more corporate welfare from the likes of the US Chamber.

I am consistently amazed by our citizens’ willingness to allow corporations to press their corporate welfare agenda, to save millions and pass the bill for their savings onto the taxpayers. Somebody has to pay for the costs of a victim’s medical bills; should it be the guilty doctor? Or should the taxpayer get the bill, through increased health insurance premiums, Medicare or Medicaid? Upon what false information can we form such strong opinions about things we know little about? Is it the fact that someone got a lot of money for tragic events in their lives and criticizing citizens got nothing? Would any of us trade places with this deceased victim? Like “Hot Coffee”, this case was completely mis-characterized by the press and misunderstood by the public. Pro-business tort-reformers have seized on these situations to develop their absurd, but effective, campaign about abuses in the civil justice system. They use these cases to depict our civil courts as places where people ‘hit the lottery’ filing 'frivolous' cases.

As someone who has practiced in and around civil courts, on both sides of these types of cases, for over 35 years, I can assure you that if this case was “frivolous”, a jury would not have awarded the spouse $3 million. In fact, this case would not have made past a motion to dismiss. The jurors were the only ones to examine the facts of the case and make a determination. And, an experienced judge applied the law with the power to overturn the verdict if he found it unjust; he didn’t do that in this case. Why not? Does that suggest anything to any of you citizen critics? We haven’t evaluated nor have we seen all of the facts; the news media was not given access to all that the jury saw and heard.

This case involves real consequences, real death, real heartbreak; this tragedy was preventable and avoidable if only this doctor had provided appropriate care and given appropriate warnings. His negligence resulted in the officer’s death; the verdict in this case was rendered because he failed to advise his patient about the risks of engaging in strenuous activities and the importance of immediate further testing. Why didn’t he stress the urgency for more tests and less activity? He knew the patient’s symptoms were potentially life-threatening and he did nothing; he was, appropriately, held responsible. If this man was you, or your loved one, what would you expect from the doctor? What you expect from the jury? What, exactly, is your problem with this result? And, what’s so funny?

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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    It is easier to judge the case with all the information that is presented to the court. The media usually just reports part of the information that is news worthy and that is what the general public responding to.