Barton v. Kern County, dba Kern Medical Center
Dr. Fagel and his associates obtained a verdict of over
$4,780,000 on behalf of a now 2-year-old child who now suffers from cerebral palsy
, mental retardation
, spastic quadriparesis and seizures after contracting
less than a week after his birth. The infant plaintiff was born
healthy with normal amounts of feeding and was discharged 24 hours after his
birth. Prior to discharge, the pediatrician examined the baby and noted a
completely normal physical examination other than a bruised face. Also, before the
discharge, a resident gave the mother a prescription for antibiotics to treat a
possible urinary tract infection, without telling the pediatrician, based upon
the results of a voided urine specimen prior to delivery the day before.
However, the resident, nurse and pediatrician all testified that the mother’s
prescription was immaterial because the urinalysis represented contamination.
Based on protocol, the mother was to be given a follow up appointment, which
must take place within 3-5 days, prior to her discharge. However, the nurse
could not make an appointment because the computers were not working so she
instructed the mother to make her own appointment. Two days later the mother
called to make an appointment but was informed that the first available
appointment was 1-2 weeks away, so she made an appointment with a local
pediatrician at a sooner date. Three days later, the baby stopped feeding,
developed a fever and then had a seizure while in the bath. The mother
immediately brought the baby to an emergency room, where he was diagnosed with
meningitis and placed on IV antibiotics. The infant’s condition continued to
deteriorate and he was eventually placed on a ventilator. A CT scan later
revealed multiple hemorrhages in his brain.
The defendants contended that their actions were well within
the standard of care because the baby was healthy at the time of discharge.
They further contend that the mother never had a urinary tract infection, as
the urine specimen was voided because it was contaminated with normal vaginal
bacteria; therefore, there was no indication to give more antibiotics to the
mother or infant. The defendants also claim that even if the infant had been
seen for a follow-up within 3-5 days, there would not have been sufficient evidence
for diagnosis or treatment of meningitis because the baby did not develop
symptoms until the day he was admitted to the emergency room; it was argued
that the baby had a very violent strain of E. Coli which rapidly progressed in
a single day and could not have been diagnosed earlier.
Dr. Fagel and his associates were able to prove that the
defendant pediatrician and nurse were negligent in discharging the infant and
should not have discharged him without giving the mother a specific follow-up
appointment. Furthermore, the attorneys at the Office of Bruce G. Fagel and
Associates were able to prove that, had the mother received an earlier
follow-up appointment, there would have been sufficient evidence for diagnosis
of the infant’s infection, allowing for antibiotic treatment which could have
prevented the meningitis and brain damage. The approximate $4.78 million
awarded will offset the total cost of past and future medical care for the next
15 years, in addition to compensating for projected loss of earnings.