The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently awarded more than $10 million in damages to a mother, after medical professionals failed to diagnose her infant son with meningitis. The 11-month-old child was rushed to the emergency room when his mother noticed that he had a high fever and was having trouble breathing. Physicians diagnosed him with an upper-respiratory infection and bronchiolitis. However, three days later, a lumbar puncture was performed. It was discovered that the boy did not have a respiratory infection, but rather, meningitis. The meningitis caused streptococcus pneumonia meningitis, hearing loss in both ears, and brain damage.
Meningitis is a potentially deadly condition that can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It results in acute inflammation of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms may include irritability, drowsiness, poor appetite, fever, headache, a stiff neck, confusion, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
The mother filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and physicians that failed to diagnose her son in 2012. A jury awarded her a total of $10.138 million, causing the defendants to appeal. On appeal, the Superior Court ruled that the multi-million dollar award for the profound deafness and brain-related injury caused by the medical professional’s negligence fell within reasonable limits.
Part of the mother’s claim was brought under section 509 of the MCARE Act. The MCARE Act creates the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund, a special fund within the Pennsylvania State Treasury that ensures reasonable compensation for persons injured as a result of medical negligence. Money in the state fund is used to pay claims against participating health care providers for damages that exceed professional liability insurance company payout ceilings.
The Court found that the jury properly awarded “delay damages” on the infant’s award for future medical expenses incurred as a result of injuries he sustained because of the medical providers’ negligence.
Failure to diagnose a medical condition is one of the most common types of medical malpractice. Malpractice lawsuits can arise from any type of missed, delayed, or inaccurate diagnosis. The most common types of missed diagnosis lawsuits involve heart attacks, breast cancer, appendicitis, lung cancer, and colon cancer. These particular conditions tend to result in severe bodily harm if they are not diagnosed relatively quickly—that is why so many lawsuits arise relating to these conditions.
Medical malpractice is defined as improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care professional. To establish that one is a victim of medical malpractice, one must prove that: (1) a duty of care was owed to them by the treatment provider; (2) the physician violated the applicable standard of care; (3) the victim suffered a compensable injury; and (4) the injury was caused in fact and proximately caused by the substandard conduct. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving each of these elements in a lawsuit for malpractice.
For victims of medical malpractice, the stakes are high. The experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can help you get the answers you are seeking. With offices located in Philadelphia, Reading, Lancaster, and Bethlehem, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form to schedule your consultation today.