Articles Posted in Infection Malpractice

Last year, an Alabama jury awarded $10 million to the family of a young boy who suffered devastating injuries after his bacterial meningitis went undetected for too long.  Meningitis is an infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.  When caused by bacteria, the condition is referred to as bacterial meningitis.

In this case, the family of the then-three-month-old was brought to the hospital on two consecutive days with a variety of symptoms and, while he was admitted, no tests to rule out bacterial infection were performed and no antibiotics were administered.  Despite his ongoing symptoms of a bacterial infection, the hospital discharged him to the care of his parents at home.  The next morning, the family took the boy to his pediatrician who performed a lumbar puncture and confirmed that he was suffering from bacterial meningitis.  He was flown by helicopter to another hospital where he was treated and underwent several surgeries.  Despite those efforts, he suffered permanent brain injuries, hearing loss and now suffers from seizures.

In newborns, the classic signs of meningitis such as fever, headache and neck stiffness may be difficult to notice.  Infants suffering from the condition may be slow or inactive, irritable, feeding poorly or vomiting.  Because the condition can be so difficult to detect in newborns, the defendants in these types of cases usually argue, among other things, that it was not below the standard of acceptable medical care to not diagnose the condition as quickly as one might expect it to be diagnosed in an adult.

A Philadelphia jury recently awarded $4.2 million to a woman whose leg was caused to be amputated because of an infection that she developed after undergoing a double-knee replacement.

The patient, who was a diabetic, presented in 2009 with bilateral knee pain and was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in both knees, a diagnosis which was subsequently confirmed by x-ray. Knee replacement surgery was scheduled for December of 2010. After the surgery, the patient was transferred to a rehabilitation facility where she began to develop drainage and a large blister in the area of the incision on her right leg but was discharged soon thereafter. The infection, later determined to be Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) was allowed to progress and in January of 2011, open wounds on her right leg and left heel were discovered. She underwent additional surgeries to have ulcers drained, and to have a skin graft on her right knee and a flap placed on her left leg.

By July of 2011, the patient had undergone three additional surgeries including one to have the hardware from her knee replacements removed. When doctors determined that her left leg had insufficient blood flow to heal properly, the leg was amputated below the knee. In her medical malpractice lawsuit, the patient alleged that her surgeon failed to advise her of the risks associated with bilateral knee replacement surgery in people with a history of diabetes and also failed to order that she undergo vascular evaluation to determine whether she was suffering from arterial or venous insufficiency. It also was alleged that despite the signs and symptoms of an infection that she was exhibiting, her physician negligently discharged her.

“No human being should ever die from a urinary tract infection in today’s world of modern medicine.” That was the theme of a Maryland medical malpractice case in which the jury last week awarded $2.6 million dollars to the husband and two young children of a woman who indeed died after her physicians failed to timely and appropriately diagnose and treat her urinary tract infection (UTI).

On April 14, 2013, the 33 year-old woman presented to a local hospital with chief complaints of shortness of breath, back pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, dizziness and painful urination. Hours later, it was noted by nursing staff that the patient’s urine was dark in color. The family’s attorneys argued that the presence of an infection was clear and that the medical staff needed to administer antibiotics and make prompt arrangements for her to be transferred to a facility with the capabilities to care for her condition, such as an intensive care unit. Instead, the defendants delayed more than ten hours before administering antibiotics.

By that time, it was too late. The woman was suffering from sepsis, a significant and deadly process during which the body releases chemicals into the bloodstream to fight infection, triggering inflammatory responses throughout the body and damaging multiple organ systems, causing vital organs to fail. She died just two days later. Experts for the family testified that this woman’s symptoms on presentation to the hospital “screamed of kidney infection, UTI and sepsis,” but the diagnosis was missed for a critically long period of time.

A recent article in Maryland’s legal newspaper, The Daily Record, titled “Md. hospitals take aim at costly, deadly sepsis,” correctly points out that hospitals must have the proper procedures in place to both detect and treat sepsis quickly. The article can be found here.

Sepsis is a complication of an infection and occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body that can damage organs, causing devastating organ failure. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, the patient’s blood pressure will drop dramatically, often resulting in the patient’s death. In a patient suffering from sepsis, every second counts as a delay of as little as an hour “could mean the difference between life and death.”

Some of the classic symptoms of early onset of sepsis include fever, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, rash, vomiting, diarrhea and confusion. Doctors encountering patients with these types of symptoms should immediately recognize sepsis and begin treating with antibiotics and intravenous fluids until a blood test either confirms or rules out the presence and progression of sepsis. In medical malpractice cases involving the failure to timely diagnose and treat the onset of sepsis, the defense often argues that the delay was not unreasonable. Proving that the delay caused unnecessary injury to the patient can be very complicated. Therefore, medical malpractice cases involving sepsis and septic shock should be assessed by an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We handle cases like these all of the time in my practice.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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