Family Received $19M for Delayed Diagnosis of Infant Meningitis
After 9 years of litigation, a family was awarded $19 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit in which they alleged that a hospital failed to accurately diagnose bacterial meningitis. The failure caused severe brain damage to the then-infant who is now 9 years old. The money will go to pay for a lifetime of acute care for the child who is unable to walk, requiring the use of a wheelchair to get around.
According to the lawsuit the hospital staff initially believed that the baby had a bowel obstruction and digestive problems, and they transferred him to a different hospital. It wasn’t until he was transferred to a third hospital that the correct diagnosis of bacterial meningitis was made.
One of the doctors who oversaw his treatment believed that the child was being overfed but released him from the hospital and then had a nurse check on him a day later. The nurse relayed that the child’s condition appeared to be worsening. However, that information never made it to the doctor until much later that day, and the child’s condition continued to worsen.
Analyzing elements of medical malpractice
In this case, the claim for medical negligence involves allegations that the hospital staff failed to timely communicate to the doctor that the child’s condition was worsening. This allowed the infection to worsen and ultimately resulted in permanent brain damage.
While the jury did not find that the doctor himself had fallen below his standard of care, they did find that the staff’s failure to timely communicate the child’s worsening condition constituted medical malpractice.
Communication is key to effective medicine
A failure to relay pertinent information to doctors in time to prevent a worsening infection is a very easy argument for a jury to understand. In this case, the hospital was sued along with the doctor who had yet to consider the correct diagnosis. While that is an actionable allegation on which to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, the jury found that the doctor’s failure to correctly diagnose bacterial meningitis was not the root cause of the patient’s injuries. Instead, it was the failure of the nurse to relay the child’s worsening condition. Ultimately, that makes the hospital liable for the medical malpractice and not the doctor.
$19 million is a large price tag for a medical malpractice lawsuit. But when children are severely injured in birth injury cases, the expenses related to their lifetime of care become quite high. In Florida, some birth injury cases go through a program known as NICA which is a no-fault system that helps parents pay for these expenses. However, not all states have a NICA system and Florida residents can still file lawsuits when necessary.
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Palmer | Lopez represents the interests of Florida residents who have been injured due to the negligent practice of medicine. Call our Tampa medical malpractice lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.