The Sun-Sentinel reported last week on the end of a medical malpractice trial involving a vaccination error that left a girl (now a teen) without use of any of her limbs. The case highlights the unique circumstances that, in the end, can be traced back to inadequate care provided by hospital caregivers. It also showcases the sad fact that the losses that result from medical errors can be of the most serious and debilitating variety.
According to the medical malpractice attorney involved in the case, as a newborn the girl suffered a range of health problems. As a result she needed to have her spleen (and various other organs removed). The spleen is an organ that plays a role in filtering dangerous bacteria and viruses from the body. Therefore, the girl required special medication following her loss of the organ to ensure that she was properly prepared to defend against infections.
Shortly afterwards, the girl’s mother brought her to the pediatric unit of a local hospital to have a vaccination. The vaccination was supposed to help those who had no spleen better fight infections. Unfortunately, the particular vaccination that the girl received had expired five months earlier-it was no good. The family’s medical malpractice lawyer explained that it was a classic medication error, with the unsuspecting family having no idea that the false sense of security caused by the inadequate vaccination would come to have severe consequences for the young girl.
Roughly eight months later the child became severely ill. She was rushed to a local hospital where professionals discovered that she had a bacterial infection coursing through her body, causing blood clots to form in her arms and legs. By the time the doctors saw the child, gangrene had set in. To save her life they were required to amputate her arms and legs above the joints. In discussing the matter, the girl’s mother explained, “She developed the very disease that they were supposed to inoculate her against.”
Shortly after the tragedy the family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit seeking to hold the facility responsible for their misconduct which led to the harm. In their defense, the hospital claimed that even had the vaccine that the girl received not been expired she still would have contracted the deadly bacteria. Additionally, the defense team argued that the girl’s mother failed to give her sufficient medication at home to stave off the medication.
The jury ultimately awarded the family $12.6 million following a trial on the merits of the case. However, they also found that the mother’s failure to provide adequate medication played a role in the problem. Therefore the jury award will be reduced by 40%, meaning that the family will likely record roughly $8 million. As sometimes happens in these cases, the hospital plans to appeal the decision. That appeal will delay that ultimate recovery for the family even longer. The medical malpractice lawsuit was actually filed ten years ago, and it is only now that it has been taken to trial-various stall tactics, complications, and other legal maneuvers were involved in keeping the case from the jury for so long.
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