Estate of Ledyard man to receive $2.6 million in medical malpractice lawsuit

The family of a Ledyard man who died of a brain bleed at the William W. Backus Hospital in December 2012 after being admitted for a simple procedure has been awarded $2,650,000 in a medical malpractice case that was set to go to trial this summer in New London Superior Court. 

Attorney Kelley E. Reardon, who represents the estate of Gary Wheelis, said Wheelis, 63, was admitted to the hospital two days before his death with a piece of rotisserie chicken stuck in his throat. He began to suffer symptoms of a stroke after undergoing an endoscopy and was administered the blood thinner heparin despite the fact that he already was taking two blood thinners — warfarin and Aspirin — for chronic atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat.

"As a result, he suffered a significant brain bleed that resulted in his death," Reardon said in an email.

The malpractice case was brought against Backus Corporation, Dr. Yahya Qureshi of Norwich Medical Associates, Dr. Anthony Alessi and Neurodiagnostics LLC by Wheelis' wife, Jean Wheelis, on behalf of herself and the estate. The case was pending in New London Superior Court since 2014 and was set to begin jury selection in July when it was settled. The final payment was due to the family this week.

"The Wheelis family is relieved that this ordeal is finally over and that they have received substantial compensation for Gary's death," Reardon said. "Simply put, Gary Wheelis had a minor medical problem and never should have died."

Dr. Qureshi had administered the heparin, according to the lawsuit. The first $2 million of the settlement was paid by Qureshi's insurance carrier, according to Reardon. She said Qureshi's attorney offered to settle the case in January and Wheelis accepted on March 15. Reardon said she could not discuss who would be paying the other $650,000 due to a confidentiality agreement.

Dr. Alessi said by phone Wednesday that he was not part of the settlement and would not be paying any money. Reardon said Wednesday evening that Alessi and his practice and the hospital had been withdrawn from the lawsuit.

A spokesman for Hartford Healthcare declined to comment due to a confidentiality agreement and the organization's practice of not commenting on legal matters.

k.florin@theday.com

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