$3.58 Million Judgment for ER Delay That Resulted in Death of 12-year-old Boy
2012 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
12-Year-Old Boy Dies from Delay in Treatment of Shunt Malfunction
This medical malpractice trial was brought forward by the mother of a 12-year-old decedent. The child had a history of significant developmental delays and required a ventriculoperitoneal shunt, which was necessary to drain excess cerebrospinal fluid from the child’s brain. On January 11, 2002, the decedent was found by his mother screaming in pain and holding his head. When she calmed him down, he was lethargic. The mother called 911 and was brought to the nearest emergency room. A nurse was assigned to the decedent at 7:05 am and found him to have stable vital signs. She did not contact the doctor for approximately a half an hour. When she did contact the emergency doctor at 7:30, the doctor ordered pain medicine without evaluating the child and did not go to see him until 8:15, which was an hour and ten minutes after his arrival to the emergency room and 45 minutes after the doctor became aware of his situation. At 8:15, the doctor began transfer protocols and called the emergency doctor at the receiving facility as well as the child’s regular neurologist and neurosurgeon.
The emergency physician claimed that the transfer was arranged as early as 8:45. However, the emergency physician did not go back to reassess the child and the child did not leave the emergency department until 10:20. The emergency physician claimed she was not told by the emergency room nurse about signs of deterioration in the child’s condition, but the plaintiff called the nurse who contradicted the doctor’s testimony. The credibility of the emergency physician was further damaged when she tried to blame discrepancies between her deposition and her trial testimony on plaintiff’s counsel’s "threatening" demeanor while questioning her at the deposition. To rebut this allegation, plaintiff’s counsel called the stenographer who took the deposition as a witness at trial and played the relevant portion of the audio recording of the deposition questions for the jury, which were anything but threatening.
The defendant further claimed that the child arrived at the receiving hospital stable and entirely treatable at that time, but that his deterioration happened some 44 minutes after arrival. However, the plaintiff called the child’s grandmother who testified that the child’s deterioration happened shortly (approximately 5 minutes) after arrival at the receiving hospital. The child suffered respiratory arrest at the receiving hospital and his brain was damaged beyond repair. He died three days later.
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