Encephalomyelitis Wrongful Death: $2.5 Million Settlement

2012 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Failure to properly treat encephalomyelitis leads to death of 18 year old boy

On 4/23/07, the decedent, an 18-year-old boy, went to his pediatrician’s office complaining of a persistent headache for 2 weeks and a temperature up to 101.8. The pediatrician also noted that the decedent did not know what day or month it was and was exhibiting an unsteady gait. Based on his findings, the decedent was sent to the local emergency room.

Upon arrival, the decedent was noted to be falling to the left when he walked, had vision problems and had some slurred speech. He was admitted with a diagnosis of either viral meningitis or an early encephalopathic process. The attending physician defendant indicated that she would speak with a neurologist but there was no evidence that occurred.

For the next 2 days, the decedent was under the care of the defendant hospitalist. The decedent was noted during that time frame to have increased headaches and he required assistance at all times with walking any distance. There was never an MRI ordered during the decedent’s stay to see whether he had an encephalopathic problem as discussed when he first arrived at the hospital.

On 4/26/07, three days after admission, the defendant hospitalist discharged the decedent. At the time of discharged, he was still unable to walk without assistance and required narcotics to control his headaches.

The following morning, on 4/27/06, the decedent’s mother found him in bed, unconscious and covered in vomit. He was rushed to the hospital where an MRI was performed. It showed significant swelling of his brain and he was diagnosed as having an ecephalopathic injury to his brain. He was declared brain dead and was removed from life support on 4/30/06. An autopsy was performed and it showed the decedent died from acute disseminated encephalomyelitis.

The plaintiffs were prepared to present evidence that the decedent’s condition of severe headaches and his inability to walk warranted an emergent MRI which would have diagnosed an early swelling of the brain. The plaintiffs expected the evidence to show that the decedent’s condition was easily treatable with high-dose steroids and antibiotics.

The defendants were expected to present evidence that the decedent had a very aggressive disease and would have been very difficult to treat even if it had been diagnosed earlier.

The case settled for $2,500,000 after the completion of discovery.

Lubin & Meyer represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit. (Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. and Robert M. Higgins, Essex Superior Court)

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