Paralysis Caused by Undiagnosed Infection: $2.7 Million Settlement

2020 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
By Attorney Robert M. Higgins

Visiting nurse's failure to diagnose amputee's infection causes paraplegia

The plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2008 that resulted in a left above-the-knee amputation. To control constant stump pain, on 12/18/12, the plaintiff had an epidural Port-A-Cath placed for continuous administration of pain medication. The catheter was placed under the skin in her chest and it went to the T12 level of her spine. She was discharged home on 12/24/12 with home visiting nurse care set up to clean the port site. The visiting nurses were also asked to check for any signs of infection.

The nursing plan called for home visits from 12/25/12 through 1/12/13. The specific order called for changes to the tubing and dressing to maintain a clean site and to look for any redness or swelling which could indicate an infection.

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On the 4th day after the port was inserted, the visiting nurse defendant noted the site looked tender and there was drainage. She changed the dressing but did not contact the physician to report her findings. On the 5th visit, the plaintiff complained of decreased sensation to her bladder (a sign of infection). The defendant changed the dressing but did nothing further.

After the 5th visit, the defendant failed to come to the plaintiff’s home for 5 days. When the nurse defendant finally returned, the port site was red and swollen. The plaintiff also had decreased sensation to the lower part of her body. The defendant contacted the plaintiff’s physician who asked that she be sent directly to the hospital. When she arrived, she was immediately diagnosed with an infection at her port and started on antibiotics. An MRI done showed that the infection had travelled down the line inside the plaintiff and into the spine. She was taken to surgery to drain the infection but unfortunately, the infection had caused permanent damage to her spine and left her a paraplegic.

The plaintiff had expert physicians opine that her paralysis was caused by an infection at her port site due to the failure of the defendant to clean it properly. Had that occurred, most likely she would not have developed an infection or paraplegia.

The defense was prepared to present evidence that there were no issues with the port until the day that the defendant saw it was red and swollen. The defense also questioned whether the infection could cause the paralysis she suffered.

The case settled for $2,700,000 after mediation.

Lubin & Meyer attorney for the plaintiff: Robert M. Higgins.

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