Doctors Cleared of Medical Malpractice in John Ritter Death

Posted on Dec 08, 2008

misdiagnosisDoctors were cleared of medical malpractice in the death of actor John Ritter.


"Dr. [Joseph] Lee started doing what he had to do when John went to the hospital," said jury forewoman Adriana Goad, speaking for nine jurors who sided with the defense. "There was no time. There was nothing else that could be done," she told local news reporters.


Ritter's widow, Amy Yasbeck, filed suit against Dr. Lee and Dr. Matthew Lotysch for $67 million, claiming the surgeons could have done more to prevent her husband's death. Ritter became ill while filming ABC's "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" in September, 2003. He died of a ruptured aorta.


The prosecution said Dr. Lee should have ordered a chest X-ray which would have revealed Ritter's heart condition. The plaintiff also claimed that Dr. Lotysch should have told Ritter his aorta was enlarged during a 2001 body scan.


But juror Goad was unconvinced of medical wrongdoing. "There were so many experts that disagreed during trial about what was an enlarged aorta," she said. "If they can't agree, why hold Dr. Lotysch accountable?"


While dismayed with the verdict, Yasbeck hoped the trial would expose the threat of aortic dissection, a condition she said is commonly misdiagnosed. "This trial was necessary because mistakes like this one are made every day," she said.