February 28, 2017, PNLR E-Newsletter

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Failure to diagnose bronchopneumonia

photo of xray

Suit alleged that a hospital was liable for its ER physician’s failure to diagnose an infant’s bilateral bronchopneumonia or include this in her differential diagnosis. The jury awarded the plaintiff $19 million. Nash v. VHS Physicians of Mich.
 

Sabrie Nash was born at 25 weeks’ gestation and was later diagnosed as having respiratory distress syndrome and other issues. Although she required a mechanical ventilator for about two months, her growth and development progressed, and she was discharged home. Several weeks later, Nash’s mother noticed that the child was developing respiratory congestion and brought her to DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan for an evaluation.

Doctors diagnosed an acute upper respiratory infection and discharged her. Eleven days later, Nash’s mother returned her to the hospital, reporting that her daughter was experiencing irregular breathing and had gone limp several times. Emergency physician Minh Cruz discharged her with a diagnosis of bronchiolitis after allegedly reading her chest X-ray. The next day, however, a radiologist read the X-ray as showing possible areas of opacity.

Two days later, Nash died. An autopsy revealed the cause was bilateral bronchopneumonia. She is survived by her parents and twin sister.

Nash’s mother, on behalf of her estate, sued the hospital, alleging liability for Cruz’s failure to diagnose pneumonia or include this in her differential diagnosis. Among other things, suit alleged that Cruz had failed to order a thorough workup, including a high-quality chest X-ray, and failed to perform a skilled reading of her films.

The jury awarded the plaintiff $19 million.

Citation: Nash v. VHS Physicians of Mich., No. 14-006203-NH (Mich. Cir. Ct. Wayne Cnty. Oct. 14, 2016).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Brian J. McKeen and John R. LaParl Jr., both of Detroit.

Defense expert: Werner Spitz, forensic pathology, St. Clair Shores, Mich.