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Root Cause: Negligence / Violation of Standards of Care

Settlement: $46.5 million

Failure by physicians to treat jaundice in an infant at birth led to the child developing kernicterus, resulting in locked-in syndrome, confinement to a wheelchair and inability to talk, walk, feed herself, or take care of activities of daily living on her own. The now two-year-old girl will require 24-hour care for the rest of her life as well as intensive medical treatment. The parents of the girl filed this medical malpractice lawsuit against a physician, employees, and Ouachita County Medical Center (OCMC) where their child was born during June 2014, claiming that the infant suffered severe permanent brain damage as a result of negligence. Specific claims included allegations that the hospital failed to conduct additional blood tests and did not administer phototherapy lights to reduce bilirubin levels, despite having the equipment. The overarching claim was that defendants failed to follow nationally accepted standards of care.

The plaintiffs claimed that Dr. Jonathan Lewis, who delivered the child, misread results of the bilirubin test as normal. Lewis released the child from the hospital without repeating the bilirubin test and without warning the parents to be alert for signs of extreme jaundice. A day later the girl’s bilirubin level increased to the point that it crossed the blood-brain barrier, causing irreversible brain damage. The jury awarded $43 million in the case for harm suffered by the child and $3.5 million for the parents’ suffering. The verdict determined Dr. Lewis to be 85 percent liable and OCMC to be 15 percent liable.

 

Venue: El Dorado, Ark. (Circuit Court of Union County, Civil Division, Fourth Division)

Plaintiff Representation: Jim Lyons (Lyons & Cone, P.L.C.); Stuart N. Ratzan and Stuart J. Weissman (Ratzan Law Group); Kimberly L. Boldt (Boldt Law Firm, P.A.)

Defense Representation: Michael Halpin (Grossman & Heavey); Timothy O’Brien (Crammer, Bishop & O’Brien); Mark Petraske (Buckley Theroux Kline & Petraske)


Root Cause: Failure to Follow Up Resulting in Indirectly Related Permanent Injuries

Settlement: $45 million

A doctor’s failure to follow hospital policy to contact the infant’s parents and arrange for additional tests after a second review of an initial X-ray image showed a possible fracture of a two-month-boy’s leg as the result of abuse by the child’s father. The mother, Sabrina Bonilla, sued the doctors at South Jersey Regional Medical Center (now Inspira Medical Center) in Vineland, N.J., claiming failure to diagnose her son’s leg fracture in 2005. The plaintiff claimed that the doctors’ failure to accurately diagnose the infant’s injury led to a chain of events that ultimately resulted in the child suffering permanent brain damage. Defense attorneys for the two doctors, attending emergency room physician Dr. Ilmia Choudhary and internist Dr. Dominic Diorio, argued that they didn’t deviate from the standard of care and that they were unaware that the child had been abused.

When examining the child, Dr. Diorio ordered X-rays of the leg and concluded there was no definitive fracture based on a report from a non-party radiologist. The hospital’s attending radiologist reviewed the image the next day, concluding that it did show a possible fracture and required additional X-rays. The attending radiologist reported his findings to Dr. Choudhary, who was obligated under hospital policy to contact the infant’s parents and arrange for additional tests, but no contact was made. Choudhary claimed she never received the report.

After the initial treatment and without follow-up, the child sent home and remained home, where he was subjected to additional abuse by the father. The boy eventually returned to the hospital weeks later with severe head injuries. Burgos admitted throwing the boy into his crib, leading to permanent brain damage. Liability in the settlement was assigned to Burgos and two doctors from South Jersey Regional Medical Center. Burgos was assigned 60 percent of liability. The remainder of the liability was apportioned to the two doctors, 35 percent to Dr. Choudhary and 5 percent to Dr. Diorio.

 

Venue: Gloucester County, N.J. (Superior Court of Gloucester County)

Plaintiff Representation: Adam M. Starr and Rosalind T. Kaplan (Jarve, Kaplan, Granato, Starr, LLC)

Defense Representation: Michael Halpin (Grossman & Heavey); Timothy O’Brien (Crammer, Bishop & O’Brien); Mark Petraske (Buckley Theroux Kline & Petraske)


Root Cause: Failure to Communicate Test Results

Settlement: $29.7 million

Failure at the federally funded Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation clinic to take adequate measures to control hypertension led to damage to the plaintiff’s kidneys, ultimately requiring a transplant. The plaintiff, Kevin Clanton, also alleged that his nurse practitioner, Denise Jordan, failed to tell him about test results showing kidney damage two years before his kidneys failed.

Clanton first began treatment at the East St. Louis clinic during June 2008, displaying severe hypertension. Over the course of 11 appointments during the subsequent two years, Clanton was still under the care of Jordon, who did not refer him to a physician despite his extremely high blood pressure. During December 2012, Clanton was hospitalized following a hypertensive emergency and diagnosed with kidney damage. A year later he was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis until he underwent a kidney transplant during November 2015.

Damages include $5 million for pain and suffering, $5 million for loss of normal life, $2.8 million for past medical expenses, $13 million for future medical expenses and $2 million for loss of life expectancy.

 

Venue: St. Louis, Ill. (Illinois Southern District Court)

Plaintiff Representation: Stephen J. Telken, Troy E. Walton and Michael Marker (Walton Telken Foster, LLC)

Defense Representation: Laura J. Jones (U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Illinois)


Root Cause: Failure to Diagnose/Negligence

Settlement: $10.1 million

A failure to use proper testing methods that prevented timely treatment of meningitis resulted in a baby suffering brain damage, deafness and other serious injuries. Plaintiff Shantice Tillery sued the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, claiming that the hospital and Dr. Monika Goyal were responsible for the outcome. The hospital contested that that testimony by the plaintiff’s expert witness was speculative and solely based on conjecture and that testimony by a neuro-otologist should not have not been allowed since he wasn’t board-certified in the same subspecialty as the defendant physician. A Pennsylvania appeals court jury awarded a $10.1 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff.

 

Venue: Philadelphia, Penn. (Superior Court of Pennsylvania)

Plaintiff Representation: Andrew J. Stern, Charles Becker and Elizabeth A. Crawford (Kline & Specter, PC)

Defense Representation: Maureen M. McBride and James C. Sargent Jr. (Lamb McErlane PC); Benjamin A. Post and Kim. M. Funaro (Post & Post LLC)


Root Cause: Excessive Force During Delivery Complications

Settlement: $1.2 million

Negligence on the part of a doctor and his delivery team in attempting to dislodge a baby’s shoulder that had become stuck in the mother’s birth canal and the resulting use of excessive force led to brachial plexus (Erb’s palsy) and two subsequent surgeries. The incident, at the University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center, caused paralysis in the infant’s right arm after the delivery team, led by defendant obstetrician Dr. Loraine Endres, pulled too hard on the baby’s shoulder and tearing nerves that control the arm. The plaintiff also argued that in this obstetrical emergency the doctor should have ordered a Cesarean section when delivery of the baby had stalled.

Dr. Endres and others named in the lawsuit agreed to pay $900,000 in cash and waive payment of $250,000 in past medical expenses incurred by the family of the infant. The settlement also sets up a Special Needs Trust to provide medical care for the child’s arm for life and to cover the costs of modifications to his home to help with activities of daily living. The hospital was not a party in the case.

 

Venue: Chicago, Ill. (Circuit Court of Cook County)

Plaintiff Representation: Kurt D. Lloyd (Lloyd Law Group, Ltd.)

Defense Representation: Pretzel & Stoufer, Chartered


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