Parents of deceased Michaela Smith secure Bell Law Firm following catastrophic stroke misdiagnosis

ATLANTA – September 8, 2021 – Lloyd Bell of Bell Law Firm today confirms the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of Annette and Michael Smith in Whitfield County against Hamilton Medical Center, Virtual Radiologic Corporation, Team Health LLC, North Georgia Radiology, and others, following negligence leading to the death of their daughter, Michaela Smith.

In June 2019, after training for her job as a detention officer, Michaela experienced headache, shortness of breath, throat swelling, slurred speech, and other symptoms. She was then taken to Hamilton ED.

The attending ED physician examined Michaela, gathered her stroke score, and then moved quickly to get her a CT scan, which indicated that Michaela was having a stroke. However, radiologist Michael Cooney read the CT images and failed to identify a critical element of the scans – the white hyperdense sign of a stroke in Michaela’s basilar artery. Dr. Cooney ultimately concluded that the scan showed no acute intracranial abnormality. Neither any provider nor the discharge instructions informed Michaela or her parents that her basilar artery was blocked.

Once home, Michaela slept and awoke with dramatically altered mental status and other classic signs and symptoms of a stroke. Michaela returned to Hamilton ED as a clinically different patient, whose neurological condition had deteriorated markedly overnight.

During her second visit to Hamilton ED, Michaela was examined by Emergency Room Physician David F. Hawkins, who identified stroke as a differential diagnosis but failed to order vascular imaging to confirm or rule out a stroke. Radiologist Kevin F. Johnson at that point interpreted and submitted a final report on the same CT scan taken the night before, also noting no evidence of brain abnormality. Later that day, Dr. Johnson also misread an MRI showing that Michaela’s basilar artery was ischemic.

That afternoon, Dr. Hawkins discussed Michaela’s case with neurologist Jeffrey Glass, who recommended admitting Michaela to the hospital. At that time, Dr. Hawkins admitted Michaela to the hospital floor for observation, as she continued to deteriorate neurologically. Once Dr. Glass himself examined Michaela, he too failed to diagnose stroke and order vascular imaging, despite Michaela’s obvious neurological deficits. Dr. Glass then signed off on Michaela’s transfer to Baroness Erlanger Hospital (“Erlanger”).

At Erlanger, Michaela’s condition progressively worsened, to the point of needing a ventilator and feeding tube. Michaela was pronounced dead on July 3, 2019.

“This is an egregious case of negligence,” states Lloyd Bell. “Although two radiology studies and her clinical presentation indicated that Michaela was having a catastrophic stroke, her doctors repeatedly misread the studies as normal, failed to diagnose the stroke, and failed to treat her deficits as a neurological emergency. Their negligence and failure to treat the stroke with the standard of care caused Michaela’s death at the young age of 26. She had so much life to live, but it was drastically cut short by these dangerous health care providers.”

Annette and Michael Smith hope to hold accountable those who caused irreparable pain and damage to their family through medical negligence, and hope that their action will prevent other families from losing a child. To review the complete filing, click here. For more information about Bell Law Firm’s success in helping victims of wrongful death, visit

About Bell Law Firm

Bell Law Firm is one of Georgia’s leading law firms for victims of medical malpractice. Founded in 1999 by Lloyd Bell, the firm has recovered more than $100 million for patients and families of people injured or killed due to medical negligence. Bell has more than 25 years of experience in federal and state courts, and he has represented clients in more than 100 jury trials in addition to many more successful settlements. Specializing in litigating misdiagnoses, surgical errors, pharmacy medication mistakes, and other types of malpractice, Bell Law firm stands apart with a deep legal experience, a mastery of technology in the courtroom, and a compelling manner of storytelling. In 2018, Daily Report, the leading source of legal news in Atlanta, named Bell Law Firm as Personal Injury Litigation Team of the Year. Firm founder, Lloyd Bell is one of only two Georgia members of the prestigious Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only organization of the 100 top trial lawyers in the country.

Tags: Team Health LLC, North Georgia Radiology, Hamilton Medical Center, Virtual Radiologic Corporation, medical malpractice, misdiagnosis, Bell Law Firm, catastrophic stroke

Contact Information:

Lauren Watt
(404) 214-0722 Ext. 116