Aortic Dissection Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Results in $6.5M Settlement

A $6.5 million settlement has been reached between a medical malpractice lawsuit brought against an Illinois hospital, which allegedly failed to adequately diagnose an aortic dissection, causing a fatal cardiac tamponade. 

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Beth Figaro, on behalf of her husband, Nicholas, against Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights.

The complaint accused the hospital, one of the treating physicians, Dr. Vinay Singh, Northwest Radiology Associates, Dev Medical Associates and a number of other physicians of a failure to diagnose a tear in Nicholas Figaro’s aorta, which led to his death in December 2010, according to a recent report in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

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The settlement came on Monday, on the eve of a medical misdiagnosis trial in the case. Nicholas Figaro’s estate will receive $3.5 million from the hospital, and $1 million each from Singh, Northwest Radiology and Dev Medical Associates. The other defendants were dismissed.

Figaro was 35 at the time he suffered sudden, stabbing chest pains, which caused him to be transported to the hospital in December 2010. Singh had a chest x-ray performed, and despite signs that part of his aorta, close to the heart, was enlarged, the x-ray was interpreted as normal.

A stress test the next morning indicated that he suffered from a cardiac abnormality, and may have been receiving an inadequate amount of blood from his coronary arteries. However, the lawsuit argues that physicians treating Figaro dismissed the findings as a false positive and discharged him.

That night, Figaro got out of bed, fell into the nightstand and died. An autopsy revealed he suffered a cardiac tamponade, after fluid built up around his heart to the point that it stopped beating. The autopsy indicated that the fluid was due to an aortic dissection, which involves a tear in the inner layers his ascending aorta that eventually caused it to burst and flood the cavity around the heart.

Aortic dissections are uncommon and often fatal. However, when detected and treated early, the risk of survival is greatly increased. Symptoms can be similar to a heart attack and can include:

  • Sudden chest or upper back pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Problems speaking
  • Vision loss
  • Paralysis on one side of the body
  • Weak pulse on one side of the body.

His wife’s lawsuit argued that the aortic dissection should have been recognized by the treating personnel at the hospital, which could have resulted in further testing and treatment that could have saved Figaro’s life.

The defendants argued that the X-ray appeared normal and was not an indication of an aortic dissection or other problems. However, as the trial approached, the defendants made several offers to settle the case before it went before a jury, with the parties finally agreeing on the $6.5 million agreement after a jury had been chosen and attorneys were preparing to give opening statements the next day.


  • MichelleAugust 19, 2021 at 10:04 am

    We too are dealing with misdiagnosed dissection resulting in death

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