Hillsborough County

(17) DARIUS B. FAGIN, Individually and as Parent and Natural Guardian of his minor children, D.F. and J.F., vs. ERIC R. STADLER, M.D.; BAY AREA HOSPITALISTS, P.A.; PRAVINCHANDRA ZALA, M.D.; PRAVINCHANDRA ZALA, M.D., P.A.; JOSE R. PRIETO, M.D.; and JOSE R. PRIETO, M.D., P.A. (Circuit Court of Hillsborough County, 13th Judicial Circuit, Florida)


County/Docket #/Judge: Hillsborough / 11-CA-014043 / Michelle Sisco


Plaintiff(s) Attorney(s): Fritz Gray of Fritz Gray, P.A., Tampa, FL; Stephanie Miles of Swope Rodante, P.A., Tampa, FL


Defendant(s) Attorney(s): Richard B. Mangan, Jr., and Derek J. Bush of Rissman, Barrett, et al., P.A., Tampa, FL for Pravinchandra Zala, M.D. and Pravinchandra Zala, M.D., P.A.; Mindy McLaughlin and Gabrielle Osbourne of Beytin, McLaughlin, et al., P.A., Tampa, FL for Eric R. Stadler, M.D. and Bay Area Hospitalists, P.A.; Ron Josepher and Tyler Batteese of Josepher & Batteese, P.A., Tampa, FL for Jose R. Prieto, M.D. and Jose R. Prieto, M.D., P.A.


Age/Sex/Occupation Of Plaintiff: 53 / M / n/a


Cause Of Injury: Medical Malpractice/Neurology/Failure to Diagnose and Treat Spinal Lesion/Paralysis. Plaintiff Darius Fagin was admitted to Brandon Regional Hospital on Aug. 9, 2010, with complaints of an infected internal jugular (IJ) line, back pain, and chest pain. Eric Stadler, M.D., a hospitalist, ordered consultations from a hematologist, cardiologist, general surgeon, urologist, and infectious disease physician Jose Prieto, M.D. On both Aug. 9 & 10, 2010, plaintiff was seen by multiple physicians, including Dr. Prieto and Dr. Stadler, whose clinical evaluations showed transient and shifting back pain throughout multiple levels of plaintiff’s spinal column. However, plaintiff claimed that he had focal back pain in his thoracic spine which was only controlled through the use of narcotic pain medication.


On the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2010, plaintiff suddenly lost feeling in his bilateral lower extremities and a consultation was placed to neurologist, Dr. Pravinchandra Zala. Dr. Zala ordered a STAT MRI of the entire spine and STAT CT of the abdomen and pelvis. However, plaintiff was nearly 350 lbs. and Dr. Zala was concerned as to whether he could fit into the closed MRI. Dr. Zala claimed that he spoke to the attending physician, hematologist, nursing staff, radiologist and radiology technician to stress the importance of the study, but the radiology technician and radiologist denied being contacted by Dr. Zala.


Plaintiff argued that the neurologic emergency required Dr. Zala to ensure the MRI was done without delay and if it could not be completed due to plaintiff’s size, a CT myelogram should have been done to determine the existence of the spinal lesion causing the paralysis. At approximately 6:30 pm, Dr. Zala telephoned the neurosurgeon, Dr. Fishman, to inform him of the need for his assistance with plaintiff, the sudden loss of neurologic function, and the possibility of surgical intervention. Dr. Zala testified it was his belief that Dr. Fishman would respond to the hospital that evening to see the patient and assist in assessing the situation. Dr. Fishman asked that the patient be made NPO and that the results of the imaging studies be called to him as soon as possible. Dr. Zala noted these orders in the chart at 7:45 pm. Dr. Fishman denied being asked to come see the patient that evening and claimed he would have come in had he been asked to do so by Dr. Zala. Dr. Fishman testified that he never received a call regarding the results of the MRI scan or CT so he did not see a reason to come to the hospital that evening. At approximately 10:00 p.m. that evening, Dr. Zala called back to the hospital to check on the status of the STAT imaging study orders. The nurse caring for plaintiff indicated that he did not believe the plaintiff would fit in the MRI scanner and, therefore, he had not attempted the study. Dr. Zala insisted that the staff take plaintiff down to radiology to attempt the study. The Brandon Regional RN house supervisor assisted in the process but plaintiff’s wide shoulders would not allow him to fit into the scanner.


Plaintiff argued Dr. Zala should have ordered a CT myelogram at this point, called Dr. Fishman to come in to see him, or consulted an interventional radiologist for help. Plaintiff also argued that Dr. Zala was negligent for failing to transfer him to Tampa General Hospital, a level 1 trauma center, as suggested by the Brandon Regional house manager. The following morning, nearly 15 hours after the onset of neurologic symptoms, the neurosurgeon, Dr. Fishman, presented to the hospital and wrote a consult note which indicated that he was unable to accomplish surgery on plaintiff due to plaintiff’s size given the limitations of the operating room tables available to him. Dr. Fishman asked that plaintiff be transferred to another facility. The MRI was eventually completed at an outpatient facility on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 2010 which showed a compressive hematoma at T10-11. Plaintiff was transferred to University Community Hospital and surgical evacuation of the hematoma took place that evening.


Nature Of Injury: Spinal cord injury causing permanent motor, bowel, bladder and sexual dysfunction; lower extremity paralysis; lost wages; loss of earning capacity; loss of consortium.


Expert Witnesses:


Benny Gavi, M.D., M.T.S., Internal Medicine, Palo Alto, CA

Gerald R. Donowitz, M.D., Infectious Diseases, Charlottesville, VA

Joel Bennett, M.D., Hematology, Philadelphia, PA

Edward Feldmann, M.D., Neurology, Longmeadow, MA

Randy Davis, M.D., Orthopedic Surgery, Baltimore, MD

Mark Palumbo, M.D., Orthopedic Surgery, Providence, RI

Sylvia F. Carra, Ph.D., Psychology, Tampa, FL

Craig H. Lichtblau, M.D., Physiatry, North Palm Beach, FL

Susan McKenzie, M.S., CRC, EVE, CLCP, Vocational Rehabilitation, West Palm Beach, FL

Michael J. Devivo, Ph.D., Epidemiology, Birmingham, AL

Brenda Mulder, Economics, Tampa, FL



Owen Samuels, M.D., Neurology, Atlanta, GA

Daniel Brotman, M.D., Internal Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Arnold Blaustein, M.D., Hematology/Oncology, Miami Beach, FL

Patrick Joseph, M.D., Infectious Diseases, San Ramon, CA

John H. Sampson, M.D., Neurosurgery, Durham, NC

Adolf Karchmer, M.D., Infectious Diseases, Boston, MA

Linda Goodwin, M.D., FACP, Geriatric Medicine, Concord, NC


Verdict: For Defendants on Oct. 11, 2016.


Editor’s Note: Prior to trial, Dr. Zala served a $250,000 proposal for settlement. Dr. Stadler served a $20,000 proposal for settlement. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for an award of $40,000,000 during closing argument.


Defense Attorney Comments: The jury deliberated 3 hours, 45 minutes following receipt of the evidence. Defendants Zala and Stadler have filed motions for attorney’s fees and costs based upon the rejected proposals for settlement.