July 20, 2001 - Jury Awards $4.7 Million for Doctor's Fatal Error

A jury awarded $4.7 million yesterday to the family of a man who sought treatment at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla and who died of a heart attack several days after he was discharged from the clinic.

An attorney for the family of Franco DeRungs, a First National Bank senior vice president who lived in La Jolla and Mexico City, said the clinic's staff discharged the patient without reviewing the results of his electrocardiogram and negligently diagnosed a fatal heart condition as an earache.

The clinic admitted before trial that it was liable for medical malpractice. A clinic spokeswoman wouldn't comment beyond saying that the matter was still under evaluation.

An attorney for the family said a doctor was supposed to review the EKG before discharging DeRungs but failed to do so, and instead diagnosed an earache and wrote "EKG normal" on the patient's chart.

The doctor, Steven H. Thompson, also a defendant in the lawsuit, is now practicing in another state.

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