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Jury Awards $1.7 Million to Berks County Family After Medical Misdiagnosis Leads to Child's Death

Last month, a jury in Berks County, Pennsylvania concluded a week-long trial involving a medical malpractice claim against an emergency room physician and local hospital. The case was troubling and emotionally potent, but the parents of a three-month-old girl were eventually awarded $1.7 million dollars in damages.

In December of 2007, the infant's parents brought her to the emergency room of Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Berks County. The child, who was suffering from a 103-degree fever, was treated by a local physician and diagnosed with a middle-ear infection. She was prescribed an antibiotic and discharged from the hospital.

The morning after her discharge, the infant's parents noted that she was pale, cool to the touch, and lethargic and promptly rushed her to her pediatrician's office. She was then transported to Lehigh Valley Medical Center where she was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis, hydrocephalus, and hypoxic brain injury. Nearly two years later, in September of 2009, she died from complications stemming from the infection.

Upon reaching the verdict, the Berks County jury upheld the family's claims that the emergency room physician failed to diagnose the serious meningitis infection. Meningitis is a type of inflammation that affects the lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord; pneumococcal meningitis is a condition that results from the spreading of bacteria from the bloodstream to the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Hypoxic brain injury occurs when the brain does not receive enough oxygen and hydrocephalus occurs when there is an excess amount of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain.

All three of these conditions are considered extremely serious and potentially fatal in young children. They also demand thorough diagnostic care and prompt treatment. According to the family's claim, the emergency room doctor failed to uphold a standard of care when treating their child. They claim that this standard should have prompted the physician to order – at a minimum – diagnostic tests that included a blood count and urinalysis to rule out or find any bacterial infection. Abnormal results obtained from these tests should have alerted the physician to more serious conditions affecting the child.

In addition to the diagnostic error committed by the physician, the medical malpractice claim asserted that the physician failed to follow-up within 24 to 48 hours of the child's first emergency room visit. Damages awarded by the court included $860,000 for the infant's future lost earnings and $860,000 for her pain and suffering.

Although no amount of money can ever substitute for the parent's loss of their child, it does help aid them in their pursuit of justice. The infant's parents, and well as her entire extended family, were forced to endure considerable emotional harm and anguish as their child grappled with the damages caused by this infection.

At the Law Offices of Dr. Michael M. Wilson, M.D., J.D & Associates, Attorney Wilson understands the emotional elements at stake in medical malpractice cases. A Washington, D.C. medical malpractice attorney who has worked with numerous families throughout the years, Attorney Wilson has the tools, resources, and experience to guide families through even the most complex and challenging claims, including those involving wrongful death. If you would like to learn more about filing a medical malpractice claim, diagnostic errors, or the ways in which Attorney Wilson can help with your particular case, please do not delay in contacting the firm today.