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.