Baltimore County

Jury awards $1.44 million to family of patient who died of sepsis at St. Joseph

The family of a man who died of sepsis at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson will receive $1.44 million after a jury ruled this week that the doctor failed to provide him with proper care.

The medical malpractice verdict comes several weeks after the hospital notified 169 more patients - bringing the total to 530 - that coronary stent implants they received at the hospital might have been unnecessary. Several lawsuits have been filed, and federal authorities have launched two investigations.

Thomas Murphy's family named Dr. Richard Tempel, 33, two other physicians and the hospital in its lawsuit filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court.Julia R. Arfaa, the lawyer representing Murphy's family, said Tempel completed several tests, including an X-ray and CT scan. Arfaa said tests revealed that the 59-year-old city resident was suffering from sepsis. He died June 11, 2007, the day after he had been admitted.

Tempel's attorney, Ronald Shaw, said the doctor thought the patient was suffering from some sort of infection, likely pneumonia. Shaw said Temple did consider sepsis at the time, but he was unaware of a source. He treated Murphy with a broad-spectrum antibiotic and admitted him.

"He sees patients with a multitude of problems. He makes an initial diagnosis and decides to send them to the hospital," Shaw said, adding that Tempel provided the appropriate treatment. He said Murphy had been ill for several days before going to St. Joseph.

The other two physicians and the hospital settled out of court.