Articles Posted in Infection Malpractice

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.

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.

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 .

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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