Missouri Jury Awards $18M:
Medical Negligence Case
On June 14, 2016, at about 7:00 PM, a previously healthy 3-year-old child presented to the emergency room with her mother with complaints of stomach pain, multiple episodes of diarrhea, fever and elevated vitals. She was discharged from the emergency room about 2 hours later without any diagnostic testing, and diagnosed with diarrhea and fever, prescribed ibuprofen, and sent home. Her mother was told the symptoms would resolve on their own. The discharge instructions indicated that the mother should “seek immediate medical care” if the child began to have blood in her stool.
The symptoms did not resolve. Instead, they got worse. On the evening of June 15, 2016, mom noticed blood in her 3-year-old’s diarrhea, and immediately made an appointment to see the primary care provider, located at the same local hospital, on the morning of June 16, 2016. Upon arrival, the patient was seen by a pediatric nurse practitioner, presenting with symptoms of blood in her stool, dry mouth, nausea, and weight loss. The nurse practitioner ordered a stool culture to test for a specific strain of E. coli known as, E. Coli O157:H7. S.G. had signs and symptoms of dehydration. Defendant admitted that E. Coli O157:H7 is the most common cause of bloody diarrhea in children, and that it carries the potential to cause kidney failure and a deadly syndrome called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.
Despite knowing that the 3-year-old had already been to the emergency room, that her symptoms were worsening, and that she could have a deadly strain of E. Coli, they chose not to admit her for observation or treatment. Rather, they gave her mother pedialyte and Tylenol and sent them home.
About 3 hours after being discharged for the second time, the mother called the office frantic. She said that her child’s “symptoms have worsened and now she is vomiting.” Mom reported “that the diarrhea is still continuing. Vomit has no blood but mom very worried that she is getting worse.” Mom reported that her 3-year-old was lethargic and was not urinating. They told mom to take her child back to the ER for evaluation of “dehydration/treatment.”
Mom and child arrived at the hospital’s emergency room at 3:07 PM. It was their third visit to the hospital in 48 hours. The symptoms were getting worse and she was severely dehydrated. She was vomiting. She was defecating blood. She was having to go diarrhea every 10 minutes. Her diarrhea was all liquid and blood, no solid. She was finally evaluated by a physician. The physician knew that this was the family’s third time to the hospital. He knew that oral hydration had failed. And he knew that her dehydration was getting worse. And he knew that she had test results pending that could show she has a deadly strain of E. Coli. He did not admit her to the hospital. Instead, he provided her with 20 ml of intravenous fluids intravenously, diagnosed her with viral gastroenteritis, and sent her home. A resident physician conducted a complete blood count, which Plaintiff argued contained evidence of a hemolytic process—raising the alarm for the potential of a serious life-threatening condition called HUS.
Plaintiff’s parents were distraught. They did not know what to do. Their 3-year-old child continued to be sick, defecating blood and not eating or drinking. On the morning of June 18, 2016, the child’s father found his daughter lifeless on the floor of his bedroom in a pool of bloody diarrhea. He picked up his daughter in his arms, and without getting dressed, drove his daughter back to the hospital. She was finally admitted to the hospital, where she would remain for 3 months. Upon admission, she was diagnosed with an acute kidney injury secondary to dehydration. The test results returned later that afternoon positive for E. Coli O157:H7 + Shiga-Like Toxin.
During her hospital stay, the 3-year-old child developed a host of complications, including kidney failure, seizures, neurological failure, and diabetes. The injuries she sustained required her to undergo intensive rehabilitation, chronic dialysis, and a lifetime of kidney transplants and hospitalization. A previously healthy 3-year-old is now and will permanently be an insulin dependent diabetic with high blood pressure, kidney disease, with cognitive injury.
Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was negligent in failing to admit the child to the hospital for proper monitoring and supportive care. Plaintiff presented expert testimony that had she been admitted and provided with supportive care in the form of monitoring, volume expansion, and as needed dialysis, that she would have not suffered any of the injuries she suffered, and would not have any of the permanent injuries that she suffers from today.
After an 8 day trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding a total of just over $18 million.