November 10, 2011

Undiagnosed Strep Infection Leads to Amputation of Child’s Legs

A six year old boy went to Baltimore-Washington Medical Center complaining of a fever, swollen tonsils, and unexplained hip pain. The hospital, located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, allegedly failed to perform a "rapid strep test" - standard safety protocol at hospitals in such situations. It has been alleged that this medical error led to the amputation of the boy’s legs as that was the only way to save his life.

A year later, his parents have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the Maryland hospital, and the doctor who failed to adequately treat the boy, seeking compensation for his medical costs. The family alleges that, because the boy was wrongly diagnosed as suffering from a hip strain and nasal congestion, his strep infection worsened. In addition, they allege that the standard of care dictates he should have been given antibiotics, even if just as a precaution. Instead, his condition continued to deteriorate as he went untreated. When the boy’s parents rushed him back to the hospital, it was only to learn it was too late. The strep infection, which had gone undiagnosed, had entered the boy’s bloodstream. The infection was so severe that it had begun to attack the child’s organs. A copy of the article regarding the lawsuit can be found here.

Both primary strep infections, which invade healthy tissue such as the throat, and secondary strep infections, which generally invade tissue weakened by injury or illness, can travel from tissue to glands, at which point they enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Ultimately, in an effort to save his life, doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center amputated both of the boy’s legs. Baltimore Washington Medical Center said, in a statement, that the boy’s symptoms were not indicative of the strep infection and the care he received was appropriate at the time.

I have handled a number of cases involving failure to timely diagnose and treat infections. These cases are especially troubling when they involve serious injures to children.

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September 23, 2011

Failure to Diagnose and Treat Infection Causes Amputation

A woman in Pennsylvania was recently awarded one of the highest sums ever recorded in a medical malpractice suit after an infection went unnoticed and nearly killed her. The lawsuit was based upon medical negligence and medical errors committed by a home nurse that was treating the woman, who was suffering from Crohn’s disease. The woman was receiving care from a home nurse when the R.N. failed to recognize that she had an infected catheter. As a result of the nurse failing to refer the patient to a physician to treat the infected catheter, both of the woman’s legs were amputated below the knee. This was a result of the infection spreading to the bloodstream. A copy of the article regarding the award can be found here.

The jury in this case awarded the woman $23.12 million after hearing about the failure of the nurse to treat the bacteria-infected catheter and found both the nurse and the employer negligent. The damages were based on compensatory awards of economic damages for medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-economic damages associated with pain and suffering. A medical malpractice case requires a plaintiff to establish that a health care provider undertook care of a patient, and thus had a duty to the patient; the duty was breached by the health care provider upon their failure to perform at the standard level of care; and that damages to the plaintiff resulted. A finding of negligence means the jury thought that the evidence showed that the woman’s health care provider committed a medical error resulting from an omission which deviated from the standards of practice generally accepted in the medical community, and found that this failure caused injury to the patient.

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July 21, 2011

Rare Bacterial Infection Leads to Severe Brain Damage in Infant – Who is at Fault?

When Myles Massey was born on September 1, 2007, along with his brother, Henry, a medical mystery began to unfold. The twin boys were born prematurely in a Washington state hospital, but it was only Myles who exhibited signs that something was wrong. It took years, but Myles’ family has finally determined the cause of the bacterial infection that overtook his small body, leaving him unable to walk or talk, while sparing his brother who developed normally.
A copy the article can be found here. .

The Massey’s initial medical malpractice suit filed in 2009, which named the doctor’s and hospital that treated Myles at the time of his birth for his contraction of the rare bacteria, cited poor infection control practices as the cause of his systematic decline. However, despite numerous tests, investigators were never able to link the bacteria to any of the doctors or the hospital.

In early 2011, a company by the name of Triad Group became the subject of an FDA investigation which found that the alcohol prep pads they were manufacturing and distributing were contaminated with the bacteria. It was then that the Massey’s mystery was solved. The hospital where Myles was born confirmed that their neonatal intensive care unit used the Triad alcohol wipes. It’s not clear why Myles was affected by this bacterium while his brother and other infants in the NICU were not, but the alcohol prep pads have been almost conclusively deemed the source of the bacteria found in Myles’ bloodstream. The Massey’s lawsuit, now amended, includes the manufacturers and distributors of the alcohol prep pads.

The rare bacterium, called “bacillus cereus,” is most often a food-borne illness but can attack individual’s with weak immune systems, causing other infections. The alcohol prep pads, which contained the bacterium in this case, have been recalled but were widely distributed and included in things such as, pre-packaged kits used for self-injection of medications.

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June 14, 2011

Malpractice From Failing To Timely Treat Septic Shock

In 2003 a twenty-seven year old man, Mr. Bennett, arrived at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He entered the emergency department complaining of generalized weakness, vomiting and a bump on the head. Later that day, he was moved from the emergency department and admitted to the hospital. Despite his progressively septic (infected) state, the treating physician failed to follow safety rules that would have resulted in the recognition of the mans’ distress. Twelve hours later, the man was finally treated, for the first time, for sepsis. Less than twenty-four hours after he arrived at the Good Samaritan Hospital, the man was pronounced dead from severe septic shock.

Following his death, Mr. Bennett’s family filed a medical malpractice survival action and wrongful death case against the Good Samaritan Hospital in the Circuit Court of Baltimore City. The family alleged that as a result of medical negligence and medical malpractice, the doctors at the Good Samaritan Hospital failed to timely diagnose and treat the infection from which Mr. Bennett’s ultimately died. The initial award, in favor of the surviving family members, was close to $600,000 even after a reduction pursuant to statutory cap. The doctor appealed in an effort to further lower the jury verdict but both the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s determination. A copy the judicial opinion regarding the case can be found here.

The falure to timely treat septic shock can have catastrophic consequences. There are specific protocols for treating septic shock that must be closely followed to ensure that people are timely treated. Septic shock requires immediate antibiotics, as hours matter in prevcenting death.

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August 5, 2010

Medical Malpractice Involving Failure to Treat Infection Leading to Sepsis

A South Carolina jury has awarded a $3 million verdict in a medical malpractice case against a South Carolina hospital and emergency room doctor. The case was filed by the husband of a woman who died after being improperly discharged from the hospital.

The woman was seen in the emergency room with complaints of stomach and back pain. Instead of being admitted, the woman was diagnosed with a kidney stone, given pain pills and asked to return several days later. But the woman didn’t make it to the future appointment. Instead, she died of septic shock, otherwise known as sepsis, approximately 2 days hours after she was discharged. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled a number of medical negligence cases against doctors and hospitals for failure to timely and properly treat infections. These cases sometimes require an expert in the field of the doctor accused of malpractice and an infectious disease expert. A central issue always is casuation - in other words, whether there was enough time to reverse the person's infection prior to serious injuries or death. Damages usually ragnge from severe and permanent injury to death. Sometimes, limbs are lost due to the effect of the infection on the body. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.

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May 19, 2010

Failure to Give Proper Antibiotic Causing Sepsis

A Baltimore County jury has awarded $1.44 million to the family of a man who died a day after spending six hours in a St. Joseph Medical Center emergency home. The verdict was against an emergency room doctor who works at St. Joseph.

The family in the case claimed that the man’s death from septic shock would have been prevented if he had received a proper broad-spectrum antibiotic and fluid when he first went to the emergency room. Instead, he was given an antibiotic to treat pneumonia and not enough fluid. A copy of an article on the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. attorney who handles many medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases, I have successfully handled many cases involving death due to sepsis. Many times, the death can be prevented with proper antibiotics, which are inexpensive to administer. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.


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October 7, 2009

Misdiagnosis of Enterovirus

A Florida jury has jus awarded the parents of a 15 year old girl $4.3 million in a medical malpractice case that was filed in 1996. The case arose when the girl was born, at which time doctors misdiagnosed a virus that the girl had. As a result, the girl’s brain and kidneys were permanently damages. The girl now has severe vision problems and permanent cirrhosis of the liver.

Once the girl got sick, the doctors allegedly ignored symptoms that pointed to an enterovirus, a typically mild illness that can become deadly in infants without a developed immune system. The doctors also failed to take liver and blood tests that would have quickly identified the virus. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled a number of cases involving children who have suffered severe and permanent injuries from malpractice. It’s always tragic to see a child whose life has been permanently affected by the negligence of another.

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August 31, 2009

Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat Meningitis

A Los Angeles jury has awarded $7.3 million in a medical negligence lawsuit against a hospital due to the alleged failure to timely diagnose and treat a baby with meningitis in a neonatal intensive care unit. The baby had suffered brain damage as a result of the malpractice.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice attorney, I have handled a number of failure to timely diagnose and treat infection cases. One critical issue in these cases is what lawyers call causation. The attorney for the plaintiff must be able to prove that had the diagnosis been timely made, that there was enough time to treat the infection. This requires expert testimony usually from an infectious disease specialist or medical examiner. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here .

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February 17, 2009

Septic Shock - Medical Malpractice

A Texas man who lost both of his arms and legs to a hospital acquired infection infection, called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus also known as MRSA, has been awarded $17.5 million by a Texas jury. After medical malpractice caps are applied, the plaintiff could collect up to $7.5 million from the doctor, an infectious-disease specialist who treated the infection in 2003. The doctor had treated the plaintiff six years ago when he developed an infection following ulcer surgery at a hospital in Texas. The doctor administered eight antibiotics to Fitzgerald but not the one drug that would have treated MRSA. The hospital-acquired infection is resistant to several common antibiotics and can become deadly if it spreads and is not treated quickly.
As a result of the malpractice, the patient went into septic shock, which caused irreparable damage to his limbs. By the time the infection was diagnosed and treated, gangrene had set in, requiring the removal of both arms below his elbows and both legs below his knees.

In the past year, there has been a number of multi-million dollar medical malpractice verdicts involving hospital acquired infections. For example, in July, a couple was awarded $2.5 million in Missouri after the husband developed MRSA and then lost a foot, leg and kidney. Subsequently, in November, a Massachusetts jury awarded $13 million to the family of a woman who died from a flesh eating infection. After that, in November, a woman reached a confidential settlement after filing a $16 million suit after a Utah hospital failed to diagnose flesh eating bacteria before she gave birth. This caused her to lose three limbs and several organs.

Hopefully, these awards award will be a reminder to doctors and hospitals that it is important for them to recognize and treat MRSA as quickly as possible before a patient develops septic shock. Nobody should go through this.

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February 10, 2009

Hospital Acquired Infections - Medical Malpractice

Every year in the United States, approximately 5% of patients admitted to hospitals develop hospital acquired infections (Staph, MRSA, etc.). A hospital acquired infection is one that is caused by just being in the hospital. Such infections double the rate of mortality for admitted patients, and it a leading cause of death in this country.

There has been a lot of talk lately about efforts to reduce the number of hospital acquired infections, which generally start in the tubes and catheters inserted into the body. Today, there was a great article in the Washington Post about one doctor’s initial skepticism that these infections could be prevented, and his eventual realization that these infections can largely be prevented. This doctor was skeptical when his hospital joined the quality improvement initiative led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit founded by Harvard pediatrician Donald Berwick. By looking at the process, measuring the results, providing feedback to key people and developing strategies to improve the care of their patients, they made checklists to ensure that certain procedures were followed to prevent hospital acquired infections. These were procedures similar to what intensive care units in Michigan did to reduce bloodstream infections to nearly zero.

For this particular doctor, after two years, there was a 50 percent decline in the intensive care unit infection rate, with a 21 percent (or $702) reduction in cost per ICU discharge. In fact, the results were so stunning, that the group published the results in the journal Quality and Safety in Health Care. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

As of today, there have been only a handful of major verdicts in cases alleging that medical malpractice for causing a hospital acquired infection. As these checklists become generally accepted, there certainly will be more cases.

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December 11, 2008

Necrotizing Fascitis Malpractice - Medcial Malpractice

A federal judge in a federal tort claims act case involving medical malpractice has ordered the U.S. government to pay $8.6 million in damages due to an air force base doctor's misdiagnosis of flesh-eating bacteria. In 2002, the woman went to the base emergency room for pain and swelling in her right arm. Court documents say that the doctor believed the woman was an addict looking for prescription drugs and told her to go home and take Motrin. Weeks later, the woman was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis or flesh-eating bacteria. A bench trial was held in August. In a decision late last month, the judge faulted the doctor and wrote that the woman suffers continuous, debilitating pain. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland involving a failure to timely diagnose and treat infections. Cases against the U.S. government are always more difficult because they must be brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which means that they get tried before a judge and not a jury.

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December 1, 2008

Hospital Infection - Medical Malpractice

There is a log of buzz in Maryland about medical malpractice cases against hospitals due to hospital infections, after an article in Maryland’s legal newspaper, The Daily Record, published an article that such lawsuits are on the rise. According to the article:

* On Nov. 6, a jury awarded $13.5 million in a medical malpractice case to the family of a Massachusetts woman who died of an infection caused by flesh-eating bacteria that she contracted during cancer treatment.

* On Nov. 14, a Utah woman reached a confidential settlement in a $16 million medical malpractice suit she filed, alleging that a hospital failed to detect necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating bacteria, before and after she gave birth, causing her to lose three limbs and several organs.

* In July, a Missouri couple was awarded $2.58 million in a medical malpractice case after the husband contracted a potentially deadly type of staph infection, known as Methicillin-Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), when doctors inserted a pacemaker. As a result of the infection, the patient lost a kidney, and a leg and a foot had to be amputated.

The article also states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta estimates that more than 2 million hospital-acquired infections occur annually, resulting in 90,000 deaths. In long-term care facilities, the CDC estimates an additional 1.5 million health-care associated infections occur each year. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

Interestingly, the article did not interview any plaintiffs’ attorneys; only defense attorneys. Had they done so, they would have learned that attorneys have been suing hospitals for years for the failure to timely diagnose and treat infections. I have successfully handled a number of such cases over the years and they are always tragic and frequently involve serious injury or even death. They usually involve routine procedures, like orthopedic surgery or gallbladder surgery, which goes well, except for the fact that the patient develops a severe infection which is not timely diagnosed or treated.

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October 19, 2008

Infection Malpractice

Last week, a Chicago man settled a medical malpractice case for $10 million against two groups representing doctors that he sued. In 2003, the man, a 33-year-old vice president at one of the country's largest information technology staffing firms, was doing great. One year earlier, he had been diagnosed with a routine heart valve condition, a murmur and bicuspid heart valve, leaving him at risk of infective endocarditis, a buildup of bacteria around the heart valve

The heart condition led to the infection in his heart, but doctors with a local hospital repeatedly misdiagnosed it, sending the man home with allergy medication once and instructions on visiting a back specialist another time. The undiagnosed infection led to a piece of the infection breaking free and traveling to the man’s brain, according to the lawsuit. That caused a stroke that left the man with severe physical and mental disabilities, including severe damage to his language center. The man, a father of two children, still suffers from seizures, has no use of one of his hands and has difficulty walking, talking and reading.

The settlement will be will be used to continue rehabilitation and search for other ways for him to get better. The amount of the settlement was based on the man’s medical and other care needs, and projected future earnings.

I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland involving a failure to timely diagnose and treat infections. Other cases have involved failure to diagnose an treat sepsis. The malpractice in my cases has led to death, amputations, brain damage, etc. It’s always tragic when a doctor fails to prescribe something so simple as antibiotics in this day and age, especially for patients at high risk for such infections.

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October 11, 2008

Failure to Treat Infection / Sepsis - Malpractice

The United States Government has agreed to pay a former Utah family nearly $1 million to settle a medical malpractice case involving failure to treat infection / sepsis. The man was being treated for leukemia at at a Veterans Affairs hospital in 2004 when he developed a severe infection and died. His surviving wife and daughter filed suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that the hospital told him to take gas-x instead of going to the emergency room to get antibiotics. He died of sepsis from a low white-blood-cell count.

The man was diagnosed with leukemia in June 2004 and received chemotherapy at the VA in October. Three days after his last treatment, he had diarrhea and abdominal pain. After calling the hospital to see what to do, his wife was told by an oncology doctor that the man should take an over-the-counter medicine for gas. What he really needed were antibiotics immediately to fight off a severe infection. His white blood cell count was low, due to the chemotherapy, which led to a bacterial infection in his colon. The man died four days before his 46th birthday and his 18th wedding anniversary. His leukemia was in remission and he was expected to live for at least another five years.
A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

I had a case almost exactly like this, where a woman had been diagnosed with lymphoma and was receiving chemotherapy and a steroid that hid the usual tell-tale signs of infection. She subsequently developed an infection, but the doctors never told her to watch for very subtle signs of infection that she would see on the steroid and she died. It was tragic because this woman was extremely bright, intelligent and wanted to know everything she could about her health. Had she been warned, she certainly would have made efforts to prevent an infection, kept close watch for an infection and been treated before it could kill her.

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August 17, 2008

Infection of Arms and Legs - Medical Malpractice

A Tennessee man has obtained a $1.5 million verdict in a medical malpractice / medical negligence lawsuit against a doctor. The man lost his leg due to an infection after a bypass surgery in the leg. According to the man, “I'm just hoping that I can get the word out (so) that it doesn't happen to anyone else.”

Apparently, the doctor performed bypass surgery on the man’s left leg. The man subsequently went back to the doctor multiple times and reported that he was experiencing fevers and chills. The doctor said the man had the flu. It turned out that the man had a bacterial infection had spread into his left leg, which caused doctors to have to amputate the leg due to the infection.

I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases involving infection to arms and legs, some causing death and some causing amputation of limbs. These cases are tragic because the patient usually has a condition that can and is being treated with the expectation that the patient will resume a normal life. In cases involving Infections in arms and legs, it is always critical for the doctor or hospital to pay close attention to any signs or symptoms of infection (redness, swelling, warmth, unusual pain, etc.), and place the patient on antibiotics if there is any sign of infection, before the infection progresses from the limb to the body (sepsis). Doctors must err on the side of caution in treating these patients. Otherwise, loss of limb and even loss of life can occur.

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August 17, 2008

Infection of Arms and Legs - Medical Malpractice

A Tennessee man has obtained a $1.5 million verdict in a medical malpractice / medical negligence lawsuit against a doctor. The man lost his leg due to an infection after a bypass surgery in the leg. According to the man, “I'm just hoping that I can get the word out (so) that it doesn't happen to anyone else.”

Apparently, the doctor performed bypass surgery on the man’s left leg. The man subsequently went back to the doctor multiple times and reported that he was experiencing fevers and chills. The doctor said the man had the flu. It turned out that the man had a bacterial infection had spread into his left leg, which caused doctors to have to amputate the leg due to the infection.

I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases involving infection to arms and legs, some causing death and some causing amputation of limbs. These cases are tragic because the patient usually has a condition that can and is being treated with the expectation that the patient will resume a normal life. In cases involving Infections in arms and legs, it is always critical for the doctor or hospital to pay close attention to any signs or symptoms of infection (redness, swelling, warmth, unusual pain, etc.), and place the patient on antibiotics if there is any sign of infection, before the infection progresses from the limb to the body (sepsis). Doctors must err on the side of caution in treating these patients. Otherwise, loss of limb and even loss of life can occur.

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August 1, 2008

Infection After Surgery Malpractice

A Missouri jury awarded $2.58 million this week to a couple in a medical malpractice case where a retiree got a staph infection and lost his right leg, part of his left foot, a kidney and some hearing. The jury than awarded $513,000 to the wife of the man, who quit her job to help care for her husband for the last four years. The jury found the doctor and the hospital liable for causing the man to suffer 15 surgeries, 84 days in hospitals, 137 visits to doctor's offices, brain damage and having to learn to walk again with a prosthesis.

The man had a pacemaker installed and then was discharged several days later. The next month, he became sick and was diagnosed at another hospital with the infection. The infection led doctors there to remove the pacemaker, at which time they found golf-ball size masses of infection in his body. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant doctor installed the pacemaker even though there was redness on the right wrist of the patient from an IV, and the installation became the conduit for the infection to spread.

I have handled a number of medical malpractice cases where the issue was whether the doctor and hospital failed to timely diagnose and treat an infection and/or sepsis. Some of these have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements or verdicts. These cases are usually very sad because they usually involve repeated instances in which the doctor or hospital ignores clear signs of infection and/or sepsis, which is documented by the medical records. They also are extremely troubling cases because the person is usually otherwise healthy but suffers severe injuries due to the infection, or even death. These cases are always complicated because the allegation usually is not that the doctor or hospital caused the infection (which is usually very hard to prove, but which was the issue in the case above), but that the doctor and hospital failed to treat an infection that was there. Proving that the doctor or hospital caused the infection is usually very difficult.

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July 7, 2008

Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat Meningitis - Medical Malpractice

A $1.25 million settlement has been reached in an Indiana medical malpractice case in which the parents of a deceased eighteen-month-old claimed that a doctor failed to timely diagnose and treat the child’s meningitis by negligently diagnosing a stomach problem. An antibiotic treatment and brain surgery failed to cure the child, and he died. The parents alleged that the doctor should have done a spinal tap and administered antibiotics earlier. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases involving a failure to timely diagnosis and treat meningitis. The key to these cases is carefully looking for the signs and symptoms of meningitis (fever; headache; vomiting or nausea with headache; confusion, or difficulty concentrating — in the very young, this may appear as inability to maintain eye contact; seizures; sleepiness or difficulty waking up; stiff neck; sensitivity to light; lack of interest in drinking and eating; skin rash in some cases, such as in viral or meningococcal meningitis) both in the medical records and through speaking with family members.

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