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$2,700,000 Verdict - Medical Malpractice - Failure Of Pediatricians To Order Spinal Tap - Delay In Diagnosis Of Spinal Meningitis - Permanent Deafness To 15-Month-Old Girl - Hydrocephalus - Five Surgeries To Insert Shunts - Emergency Room Doctor Exonerated

Facts

On December 14, 1988, the plaintiff parents took their daughter to the Children's Pediatric Center in Philadelphia where she had treated since birth. The child's temperatures was 104 degrees, according to evidence offered. The first defendant pediatrician, Dr. A, examined the child, diagnosed bilateralotis media (infection of both ears) and prescribed Amoxicillin and Tylenol. On December 17, 1998, the plaintiff mother telephoned the second defendant pediatrician, Dr. S, and reported that her daughter was sleeping constantly, the fever persisted and she was not eating. The second defendant pediatrician stopped the Amoxicillin and prescribed another antibiotic, Ceclor, in its place. On December 18, 1988, a Sunday, the plaintiff parents took the child to the emergency room of the defendant hospital with a temperature of 104 degrees. At the hospital, she was examined by another physician, Dr. F, who noted that one ear infection had resolved and that the other improved with no neck stiffness. Dr. F called Dr. A to discuss the case and prescribed pediolyte. The minor plaintiff appeared more alert and was released from the hospital with a diagnosis of fever dehydration secondary to otitis media.

The plaintiff mother testified that over the course of the next week, she took her daughter to the Pediatric Center on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and also called every day, reporting that the fever and lethargy continued with fever spikes of 106 degrees. On December 28, 1988, Dr. A referred the child to hospital where a spinal tap was performed revealing H-Influenza type B meningitis.

Theories

The plaintiff's medical experts testified that a spinal tap should have been performed after the fourth day of continued fever and lethargy and that diagnosis at that time would have allowed successful treatment of the condition. As a result of the failure to timely diagnosis meningitis, the minor plaintiff was rendered totally deaf and required surgical insertion of a shunt to drain fluid from her brain. The shunt malfunctioned throughout the summer of 1993 requiring five separate operations until a successful shunt replacement was made. The plaintiff's treating neurosurgeon testified that the hydrocephalus would typically required two or three shunt replacements every ten years.

Defenses

The defendants called three medical experts and two treating physicians who opined that the minor plaintiff suffered from acute onset meningitis which developed with int eh 24-hour period before the plaintiff was referred to the hospital where the condition was diagnosed. The defense argued that the treatment rendered to the minor plaintiff met the appropriate standard of care in all respects. The first treating physician also contended that noes indicated that the plaintiff mother reported during the 11-day period in question that the child's condition was improving. The plaintiff denied making such a statement and called a handwriting expert who testified that the notation was added to the records after the records were originally written.

Verdict

The jury found the defendant hospital and hospital physician were not negligent. It found the first defendant pediatrician, Dr. A 60% negligent and the second defendant pediatrician, Dr. S 40% negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $2.7 million.

This informational piece was prepared by Silverman & Fodera. If you would like more information on this topic, call us at (800) 220-LAW1, or use the "Do I Have A Case?" link on this web site.