CHOP ordered to pay $10 million over delayed diagnosis

 The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia entrance signs line the street. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia entrance signs line the street. (Nathaniel Hamilton/for NewsWorks)

A Philadelphia jury has awarded a mother and her son $10 million after a hospital failed to diagnosed bacterial meningitis quickly enough.

After a four-week trial, the jury found that employees of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were negligent for not providing proper treatment to an infant who was brought to the hospital’s emergency room three times in December 2009.

The child should have had blood work done to determine whether his fever and other symptoms were serious, Shantice Tillery said in the lawsuit, which was filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Instead, Tillery said, CHOP sent the infant home, saying he had a respiratory infection.

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Yet the symptoms persisted.

It took two more visits before CHOP specialists figured out that he had bacterial meningitis. The suit said that by the time antibiotics were administered, brain damage had taken hold.

One hospital resident, in particular, was 60 percent responsible for the lag time in treating the infant on the third day, the jury found. Two ER doctors, listed as defendants in the suit, were cleared of any responsibility in the case. 

Tillery’s son, who is now 6, was also a plaintiff in the case.

“He will be functionally illiterate his whole life,” said trial lawyer Andy Stern, who represented the family. “He has a significant, permanent cognitive deficit in that he has a central language disorder, which basically prevents him from being able to adequately learn.”

Stern rejected a $3 million plea deal offer from the hospital. He said the $10 million award is not excessive given the facts of the case.

“It’s completely consistent with the evidence that was offered, and was presented to the jury, and there’s no basis for any appellate issues,” Stern said.

In Pennsylvania, there are no statuary limits on jury awards for medical malpractice cases.

Of the $10.1 million award, the jury awarded $7.5 million as a remedy for the mother and son’s pain and suffering.

Stern said treatment delays directly contributed to the child’s worsening condition. Hopefully, Stern said, this case prompts hospitalwide reforms.

“That’s part of what we hope will happen from this, that CHOP will learn form this,” Stern said.

A CHOP spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether an appeal is planned.

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