Doctor, PA Face Lawsuit After Patient Dies of COVID-19

Alicia Gallegos

July 28, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

A Tennessee woman is suing a family physician and physician assistant (PA) after her husband's death from COVID-19, claiming the health providers failed to properly test the man and rendered improper care that led to his demise.

Shirley Dimoh of Memphis alleges her husband Peter Dimoh, 66, received inadequate care when he presented with COVID-19 symptoms to May Medical Group in Munford, Tennessee, on November 19, 2020. Physician assistant Robert Moody ordered a COVID-19 blood test for Dimoh, rather than a nasal swab test, which was sent to an Atlanta lab for analysis, according to the lawsuit.

By the time the Dimohs were informed of the positive result on November 23, Dimoh was seriously ill and showed signs of severe infection, the claim alleges. Family physician David Krapf, DO, then prescribed methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant, which the complaint claims exacerbated Dimoh's infection, caused serious adverse reactions, and led to his death on December 16, 2020.

"Mr Dimoh had multiple comorbid conditions and he had a positive test, he should have been referred to a specialist at a higher level of care," said Duncan E. Ragsdale, a Memphis-based attorney representing Shirley Dimoh. "This is not something for a family physician or a physician assistant to be attempting to handle. It's my belief this was a preventable death."

Shirley Dimoh filed a lawsuit against May Medical Group, Moody, Krapf, and several others on June 23, 2021 in the Circuit Court of Tennessee, 13th Judicial District. She accuses the group of negligence, failure to refer, and failure to supervise, among other claims. She is requesting $5 million in damages.

May Medical Group did not return phone or email messages seeking comment for this story. The group had not issued a reply to the lawsuit as of this article's deadline. An attorney for the practice is not yet listed in court records.

Wife Had COVID-19 First, Treated By Same PA

Shirley Dimoh was the first of the couple to contract COVID-19. She visited May Medical Group with COVID-19 symptoms on November 9, according to the lawsuit. The same physician assistant allegedly prescribed antibiotics and sent Shirley Dimoh to the health department for a rapid nasal swab test. After a positive test resulted, she was prescribed more antibiotics, steroids, and other medications, according to the claim. She recovered without complications.

The plaintiff alleges the medical practice did not warn Peter Dimoh of the risk of contracting COVID-19 from contact with Shirley Dimoh or offer prophylactics against infection. Peter Dimoh had underlying conditions that included diabetes and kidney failure, according to Ragsdale.

It's unclear why Peter Dimoh may have been prescribed methocarbamol after his positive COVID-19 test on November 23. The same day, Shirley Dimoh went to the pharmacy to pick up her husband's prescription because he was too sick to go himself, the complaint states. Dimoh took the medication three times a day as prescribed. The methocarbamol was "unreasonably dangerous" for Dimoh at the time and caused an injury he would have not incurred otherwise, the suit claims.

On November 28, Dimoh collapsed and was taken by ambulance to Methodist Hospital in Memphis. He was treated for COVID-19 as well as bacterial pneumonia, severe sepsis, and systemic inflammatory response syndrome, according to the complaint. He died December 16 from respiratory and heart failure.

"What's interesting about this case is that you've got a good example and a bad example together," Ragsdale said. "In other words, the good example is they treated her appropriately, she recovered. They didn't treat him at all, he died. I don't know how you could have a better counter position established by the same practice."

Family Has Sued for Malpractice Before

Before his death, Peter Dimoh was the plaintiff in another medical negligence suit. In 2013, he sued the Center for Oral and Facial Surgery of Memphis and two oral surgeons for allegedly operating on him improperly and causing an adverse outcome.  

Dimoh underwent oral surgery on February 8, 2012 at the center. The day of his operation, Dimoh's A1c and glucose levels were grossly elevated, according to the claim, which was also represented by Ragsdale. Surgeons concluded, incorrectly, that Dimoh's diabetes was under control, the complaint alleges, failed to order preoperative antibiotics, operated on him, and caused a bacterial infection at the operative site. The infection allegedly resulted in osteomyelitis of Dimoh's left mandible with a pathologic fracture.

The complaint also alleges that although Dimoh signed a consent form for the surgery, the defendants failed to obtain his consent because they were unaware his diabetes was not under control and they did not explain the risks of surgery while in such a condition. The suit alleges lack of informed consent, negligence, and gross negligence by the practice and requests $2 million in damages. 

Court documents show the suit was voluntarily withdrawn in 2018 without prejudice and reissued in 2019. In January 2021, the court was given notice of Dimoh's death, and a motion was made to substitute another plaintiff, according to Shelby County court records.

An attorney for the Center for Oral and Facial Surgery of Memphis did not return a message seeking comment.

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