In the summer of 2006, a 23-year-old man suffering from a fever, cough, and chest pain sought help in the emergency room of a Brighton hospital. A physician there spent just five minutes with the patient before promptly diagnosing him with bronchitis, prescribing antibiotics and painkillers, and sending him home to rest.
The next morning, the man was found dead in his bed, and in the weeks that followed, medical examiners identified the cause of death as myocarditis—an inflammation of heart muscle usually caused by a viral infection, which, as Robert Higgins, the lawyer for the victim’s family, notes, is a preventable condition.
“An electrocardiogram, usually administered when patients complain of chest pain, as this young man did, would have revealed the infection,” Higgins observes. “But the hospital’s physician failed to order the test, and the result was catastrophic.”
Higgins, who is a partner at the Boston law firm Lubin & Meyer, has a history of holding providers accountable in cases of medical error, and this case was no different. In March 2014, after a five-day trial, a Suffolk Superior jury declared the hospital’s physician negligent in his care and treatment, finding that $2.92 million would fully and fairly compensate the victim’s family; with interest, this award will total $4.8 million.
“The fact is, medical mistakes are endemic to our health care system,” Higgins says. “They are one of the leading causes of death in this country, and as a firm, it is not only our mission to achieve maximum compensation for our clients, but also to ensure patient safety for the general public.”
In that regard, it helps that Lubin & Meyer—which has been ranked Tier 1 in Boston for plaintiffs’ medical malpractice law and personal injury litigation by U.S. News - Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms”—is an industry leader. Over the past decade alone, the firm has achieved more than $650 million in verdicts and settlements for its clients, making it one of the country’s top medical malpractice and personal injury law firms.
“The fact is, medical mistakes are endemic to our health care system.”
Lubin & Meyer has also obtained some of the largest medical malpractice and personal injury verdicts in state history, including a record-breaking verdict of $40 million for the family of a boy born with severe brain damage. In 2014, the firm achieved an unprecedented five of the eight largest verdicts in the state, as reported by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, as well as 25 million-plus settlements.
“Improving any system requires change, which in turn requires leadership, and that is where we excel,” notes Higgins, who obtained three of these five verdicts—$4.8 million in the undiagnosed myocarditis case, $11 million in a case where a doctor failed to diagnose lung cancer, and $7 million in a case where a tonsillectomy resulted in the death of a 38-year-old man. Higgins was selected by his peers as Best Lawyers’ 2015 Boston Lawyer of the Year for plaintiffs’ medical malpractice law.
Founding partner Andrew C Meyer Jr, a Best Lawyers’ Boston Lawyer of the Year for medical malpractice law in 2011, says of Higgins, “Robert has earned such a high level of respect among other leading lawyers in this field because of his consummate professionalism, integrity, and abilities. The tenacity he brings to his cases and his unparalleled track record serve as benchmarks for all the attorneys at our firm.”
Indeed, Higgins, Meyer and their colleagues are known as relentless advocates for the rights of injured patients. By calling for a better standard of care, they have exposed the lack of quality treatment available at many institutions and, in the process, helped create safer hospital environments. In just one example, after a Lubin & Meyer lawsuit uncovered a flaw in a Boston hospital’s computer system that had allowed medical professionals to overdose a patient, resulting in her death, the hospital changed its protocols and instituted a backup system to safeguard against a similar tragedy.
“When we founded this practice in the mid-1970s, we were one of the first firms to expose medical errors and take a stand on behalf of consumers,” Meyer says. “From then on, we’ve continued to fight hard to change the systems within hospitals and doctors’ offices that cause these mistakes, because patients deserve a health care system where safety is a priority and errors are not just swept under the rug.”