Doctor must pay $2.3 million for failure to diagnose infection

Failing to diagnose a serious infection that is rapidly spreading through the patient’s body seems to be a highly reported source of medical malpractice in Maryland and other states. A large jury verdict was recently entered on behalf of a man who was sent home from a hospital on Oct. 1, 2010 with a serious bacterial infection. As a result of the doctor’s failure to diagnose the infection, the infection has seriously destroyed the patient’s hip, causing a hip transplant.

A jury entered a $2.3 million verdict against the head of orthopedic surgery at the hospital where the malpractice occurred. The plaintiff had claimed that he was prematurely discharged from the hospital even though the doctor had test results at his disposal showing a spreading infection. The jury found that the doctor was negligent in ignoring the test results.

When rushed back to the hospital in Nyack, New York two days later, the patient’s hip was irreparably damaged, necessitating the hip surgery. The plaintiff’s attorney stressed that doctors should not take unnecessary risks by sending patients home prematurely. The attorney said that there should have been a follow-up on the test results.

The jury verdict was entered after a three-week trial. The jury exonerated the treating doctor’s assistant, another male physician, from liability. To further motivate the jury’s award, it was determined that the infection was caused by a shot given to him at a radiology office where he was sent for an MRI prior to the hospitalization.

The plaintiff’s damages from the failure to diagnose and treat the infection included a permanent disability precluding him from ever working construction again. In all states, including Maryland, damages must be paid to a plaintiff who has a regular work history that has been ended by the defendant’s negligence. That amount over the remainder of the man’s work life, discounted to present value, could comprise a significant part of the $2.3 million award.

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