Articles Posted in Doctor Malpactice

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A Missouri jury awarded close to $29 million this week to a then-college athlete whose rare genetic disorder went undiagnosed beginning in 2012, leaving her with devastating injuries.  The woman, who now is 24 years old, alleged that she went to her doctor in 2012 with complaints of fatigue, tremors, gait issues, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, crying spells and panic attacks.  Her doctor diagnosed her with anxiety and declined to prescribe any diagnostic testing.  Eight months later, after her symptoms worsened, the woman and her mother implored the doctor for more testing.  An MRI of her brain demonstrated that the woman was suffering from Wilson’s disease.

Wilson’s disease is a rare, hereditary disorder that causes excess amounts of copper to accumulate in the liver, brain and other vital organs.  Copper in the body contributes to, among other things, development of healthy nerves and bones.  Normally, it is absorbed from the food that you eat and any excess is excreted through the bile that is produced in the liver.  However, people with Wilson’s disease do not excrete the copper properly, causing it to accumulate in the body.  If it is diagnosed early, the disease usually can be managed well, resulting in a largely normal life.

As a result of the delay in the diagnoses in this particular case, the woman suffered catastrophic and permanent brain damage and now gets her nutrition through a feeding tube.  The jury’s award included 21 million for future medical expenses and other care costs, $3.2 million for future economic damages such as lost wages, and $3.2 million for future non-economic damages for her pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.

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A bench trial in which the judge – and not a jury – decides the case, recently resulted in a $4.25 million verdict to a man whose undiagnosed condition left him paralyzed. The man presented to a local clinic after being injured at work. At that time, healthcare professionals administered a shot, issued him a prescription for pain medication and authorized him to return to work. Shortly thereafter, his pain worsened to the point that he could hardly walk. He went back to the clinic where he was issued another prescription for pain medication and sent back to work.

He subsequently presented to the emergency room where it was determined that he was suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome, a surgical emergency in which something is compressing the spinal nerve roots. If not treated immediately, the condition can lead to incontinence and paralysis. The man now is permanently paralyzed. The lawsuit alleged that the healthcare providers at the clinic failed to order the testing that was warranted by the man’s symptoms, which would have resulted in an earlier diagnosis and avoidance of paralysis. The man’s wife has now become her husband’s primary caretaker. The judge’s verdict included $450,000 to the man’s wife for loss of consortium.

The most common defense to a case such as this one is that diagnosing the condition sooner would not have changed the outcome and that therefore, the delay was not a cause of the victim’s injuries. It takes experienced medical malpractice lawyers with the right experts to combat this type of argument at trial. If you or a loved one were the victim of a medical mistake, you can speak with one of our experienced medical malpractice attorneys for free at 410-385-2225.

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A Montgomery County, Pennsylvania jury has awarded $5 million to the Estate and surviving family members of an 88 year-old man who died after medical professionals improperly placed a feeding to into his lung. The man had been transferred from his assisted living facility to a local hospital at which time a feeding tube was inserted. The man had pulled the feeding tube out and so doctors had to reinsert it the following day. After the feeding tube was reinserted, he was taken for a chest x-ray to confirm proper placement of the tube.

The radiologist on duty, a first-year resident, reviewed the x-ray and read it as normal. After that finding, the patient was fed through the feeding tube for more than twelve hours, filling his lungs with fluid, after which he began exhibiting signs of physical and respiratory distress. The patient’s family alleged that the healthcare providers failed to recognize that the physical distress was the result of the feeding tube having been improperly placed. The Defendants focused much of their case on trying to minimize the amount of damages that the jury should award. In doing so, the Defendants emphasized the man’s age, life expectancy and history of medical issues.

Settlement negotiations before trial had stalled when, in response to a $500,000 demand from the patient’s family, the Defendants made a collective offer of just $200,000. The jury’s verdict included $3.5 million to the patient’s estate for his 12 hours of pain and suffering and $1.5 million to his family members to their loss of a loved one.

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A Montgomery County jury awarded more than $40 million to a couple who claimed that their Rockville, Maryland fertility doctor failed to properly screen the surrogate mother who carried their child. The crux of the couple’s claim was that the standard of care required that the fertility doctor obtain and review the potential surrogate’s obstetrical and gynecological history before clearing the candidate to act as the surrogate. Although the doctor did inquire of the candidate about her history, the candidate lied by stating that she had previously carried four pregnancies to term without complications. The doctor, however, never obtained the pertinent medical records to verify the candidate’s representations.

What the couple did not know was that the candidate had in fact given birth to six children and that during the last pregnancy, she suffered from preeclampsia, a complication that resulted in premature birth. Unfortunately, the surrogate suffered from the same complication during the pregnancy with the couple’s child. The child was born at a premature gestation of 25 weeks and passed away twenty-one days later from what was described as “overwhelming” sepsis. It was alleged that had the fertility doctor properly and appropriately looked into the surrogate’s medical history – and not merely relied upon the surrogate’s statements – the couple would have had information which would have caused them reject the potential surrogate as a candidate. The fertility doctor’s defense was that it was appropriate to rely upon the representations of the candidate and not take any further action to verify those representations.

The verdict, which included $42 million for wrongful death and $2.1 million for the conscious pain and suffering of the child, will be reduced to approximately $890,000 pursuant to Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages.

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A Chicago jury has awarded more than $1 million to a 53 year-old man who suffers impaired vision as the result of his doctor’s failure to timely diagnose and treat syphilis. The man presented to the defendant as a new patient in February of 2008 complaining of coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in his chest. He reported that he was gay but the doctor did not note that in his medical records or ask any follow-up questions regarding his sexual practices. According to his lawyers, these symptoms can be consistent with males suffering from the initial stage of syphilis. He was sent home with medicine for bronchitis.

The man presented again one month later after his symptoms had returned. At that time, he also was experiencing a rash on his hands and feet. The defendant prescribed him Benadryl for a suspected allergic reaction to the medication and an inhaler for his chest symptoms. The symptoms went away and he was symptom free for approximately one year until in 2009, he began to experience vision problems.

An eye doctor referred him for a blood test which was positive for both syphilis and HIV. By the time the syphilis was diagnosed, the man was suffering from the third stage of syphilis – called neurosyphilis – during which the bacteria invade the nervous system and compromise brain neurons. The condition can be treated with a 14 day regimen of antibiotics but the neurological damage already done cannot be reversed. In addition to vision impairment, the man also suffers from short-term memory issues. He argued at trial that if he had received a simple blood test at the second visit to the Defendant, his condition would have been diagnosed and his long-term health problems would have been avoided. The Defendant argued in part that the man’s HIV sped up the progression of his syphilis to neurosyphilis due to his compromised immune system.

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No matter the jurisdiction, most jurors who are seated to hear a medical malpractice case/trial carry with them some inherent biases. In fact, it has been our experience that many jurors and inclined to give doctors a “pass” in certain circumstances because the doctor was trying to help the patient, and certainly not trying to deliberately hurt the patient. Moreover, many jurors have family and friends who are in the health care industry and thus they are naturally biased in favor of those individuals, no doubt after hearing the “horror” stories of allegedly unfounded medical malpractice claims. As a result, many jurors will actually scrutinize the Plaintiff’s case for any reason that they can find to blame the Plaintiff for the injury or adverse result. These inherent biases can often be difficult to overcome in a week or two-week trial. One way to combat these biases is to use the defendant doctor or defendant hospital’s own policies and guidelines against them.

The majority of hospitals and/or physicians in today’s health care industry have developed clinical practice guidelines for how to treat certain conditions. These guidelines give recommendations about examinations to perform when confronted with certain signs and symptoms, certain tests to perform, certain medications a patient should receive and the timeframe within which all of these things should occur so as to provide to the best care to a patient and/or rule out potentially life-threatening conditions. For example, when a patient comes into a hospital complaining of a sudden onset of chest pain, most hospitals follow a cardiovascular guideline, taking steps to rule out the potentially life-threatening conditions like a heart attack, pulmonary embolism (blood clot to lung) and an aortic dissection. Such steps include performing an EKG, ordering a CT scan of the Chest, drawing blood to perform serial laboratory studies to look at certain markers. In short, these guidelines are adopted by hospitals and health care providers to try and prevent common errors. The guidelines are premised upon the belief that health care providers are human and injuries are inevitable without checklists and systems in place to prevent the same.

During the discovery period of any medical negligence case against a doctor or hospital, we always inquire whether any applicable clinical practice guidelines exist with respect to the care and treatment of our clients. Whether the case deals with alleged negligence against an emergency room physician, a consulting specialist, a radiologist or a nurse, guidelines typically exist.

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A New York jury in a medical malpractice recently found that a pediatric endocrinologist was guilty of medical negligence that caused the wrongful death of a six-year-old girl, and awarded the mother an $8 million verdict. Sadly, the girl died shortly after a non-board certified pediatric endocrinologist misdiagnosed her diabetes.

This defendant doctor was recommended by the girl’s pediatrician, who thought she may have had diabetes. After administering a blood test, the specialist jumped to the conclusion that the girl had pre-Type 2 diabetes; she prescribed a regimen of weight loss and exercise. Following this initial misdiagnosis, the specialist failed to order a blood test at a second visit, and the girl became gravely ill about a month later. When the girl’s blood sugar eventually was tested at the ER, it was found to be five times higher than the normal limits. Unfortunately, all she really needed was insulin, but because her doctor misdiagnosed her with Type 2 diabetes, instead of Type 1 diabetes, she ended up not getting the insulin she needed and died. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here .

At trial, doctors said there were other signs that the girl had Type 1 diabetes and asserted that the doctor’s negligence in failing to administer the girl insulin caused the girl’s wrongful death. One diabetes expert testified that when a six-year-old has diabetes, there is a 99.99 percent chance it is Type 1. This is crucial, as Type 1 require insulin; Type 2 normally can be treated with diet and exercise.

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A recent USA Today investigation has revealed that thousands of doctors who have been banned by hospitals or other medical facilities are not punished by their state medical boards. Many of these sanctions were due to medical malpractice. A copy of the report can be found here.

For the investigation, reporters looked at data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which is a federal repository that helps medical boards track physicians’ license records, malpractice payments and disciplinary actions imposed by hospitals, HMOs and other institutions that manage doctors. By law, reports must be filed with the Data Bank when any one of the nation’s doctors faces “adverse actions” and the reports are intended to be monitored closely by medical boards.

The research showed:

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A recent study in the British Medical Journal Open, The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: a Systematic Review, has addressed how often medical malpractice and wrongful death claims filed against primary care physicians worldwide. Authors of the study conducted a systematic search of more than 7,000 medical articles to find data involving medical malpractice trends and studies. Articles were included in the review if they involved at least ten medical malpractice claims based in primary care. Of the 239,756 closed medical negligence claims in the U.S. filed between 1985 and 2008, primary care physicians represented 11% of all claims. Another review of 1,452 claims in the U.S. revealed that primary care ranked third, representing 16% of claims. A copy of the article can be found here.

The researchers found that the most common medical malpractice and wrongful death claims against primary care physicians involved missed or delayed diagnoses, which accounted for 26% to 63% of all claims. In adults, the most common primary care medical malpractice claims typically involved failing to diagnose cancers of the breast, colon, skin, lung and female genital tract, and myocardial infarction (heart attack). Following these were appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, and bone fractures. In children, the most frequent missed or delayed diagnoses concerned meningitis and cancer.

Several studies found that these diagnostic mistakes may result from faulty clinical reasoning, misinterpretation of diagnostic tests or system failures, and typically may be a combination of many factors. Overall, medication errors were the second most frequent cause for malpractice claims, totaling between 5.6% and 20% depending on the study reviewed. Several studies highlighted that drug errors often were multifactorial with prescriber, patient and system factors all being contributors.