CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Large negligence and medical malpractice verdict

A jury awarded $1.5 million in a negligence and medical malpractice lawsuit against two physician assistants, a pediatrician and Southeastern Regional Medical Center.

The jury found that that the defendants' negligence resulted in the death of a one-year old, who "died of cardiac failure and severe myocarditis, a disorder that is usually caused by viral infections. The heart muscle becomes inflamed and weakened, which causes symptoms of heart failure."

It sounds like the case proceeded on both direct negligence (hospital directly failed to take due care through failure to properly supervise) and vicarious liability (hospital vicariously liable for the acts of its employees who are considered its agents):

"They claimed that Recker and Bell [the physician assistants] failed to perform a complete evaluation of Clarissa [the infant] and did not respond to the symptoms she was showing when she was admitted to the hospital. The lawsuit alleged that Recker twice failed to properly examine Clarissa when a nurse notified him of the girl's condition during the night of Sept. 17, 2001. Bell failed to properly examine the girl once, according to the lawsuit. Hernandez had the "right to control" the manner in which the defendants provided care to Clarissa, the lawsuit stated. All were employed with Lumberton Children's Clinic at the time.

The lawsuit said the hospital was negligent because its staff did not convey Clarissa's condition to the physician assistants and pediatrician in a timely manner. Also, it did not take reasonable steps to ensure that Clarissa received timely, appropriate care from a competent physician or physician assistant, the lawsuit states."

In a statement the hospital reaffirmed its commitment to continuous quality improvement and its belief that appropriate medical care was provided. However, the hospital did not file an appeal. The hospital also expressed its sympathy to the family for the infant's death.

The plaintiff's attorney thought the verdict should have been much higher, but stated that the family's goals had been met: "to get answers, to hold accountable those personally responsible for their daughter's death, to change the way care is administered and to bring justice for their daughter."

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Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers general corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), a forum for exploration of legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues involved in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. The most recent published book by Michael H. Cohen on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy pertaining to complementary, alternative and integrative medicine and related fields is Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion. This is the fourth book in a series, following Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).
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