On August 3, 2012, after a 15-day medical malpractice jury trial in Tennessee, a medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $7,816,740 in favor of a now-20-year-old man whose cut on his knee due to a fall onto an exposed nail in 2004 when he was 12-years-old was improperly treated in a hospital emergency room, leading to permanent brain damage and other injuries from the flesh-eating bacteria (necrotizing fasciitis).
The boy had gone to a local amusement center on January 17, 2004 to play laser tag. He fell and cut his knee on an exposed nail (the owner of the amusement center was named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the boy’s parents). He was brought to a local emergency room, where it was alleged that the doctors failed to take appropriate precautions to avoid infection, including the failure to administer antibiotics.
Two days later, the boy returned to the same hospital emergency room in excruciating pain and with redness and swelling that was progressing up his leg. He was admitted to the hospital but his doctor failed to recognize that the boy had flesh-eating bacteria. It wasn’t until three days later that another doctor in the hospital realized that the boy’s condition was serious, at which time he was transferred to another hospital.
As the result of the alleged negligent failure to timely diagnose and treat the boy’s necrotizing fasciitis, much of the boy’s skin from his knee to his groin had to be removed and he was subjected to painful skin grafts. The bacteria also led to the boy’s permanent brain damage due to seizures (the boy was in a coma for two weeks).
The medical malpractice case was originally filed in December, 2004. The first medical malpractice jury trial in 2007 ended in a mistrial. The medical malpractice claim was then re-tried, beginning in July, 2012.
The defendant emergency room doctor and the defendant emergency room nurse practitioner reportedly settled with the plaintiffs before trial. The hospital settled with the plaintiffs mid-way through the trial.
The medical malpractice jury determined that the owner of the amusement center was responsible for 13% of the verdict; the emergency room doctor was responsible for 20% of the verdict; the nurse practitioner was responsible for 20% of the verdict; and, the hospital was responsible for 47% of the verdict.
What Is Necrotizing Fasciitis?
“Necrotizing” refers to something that causes tissues of the body to die. Necrotizing fasciitis is a severe soft tissue bacterial infection that can destroy skin, muscle, and underlying tissues. Necrotizing fasciitis occurs when bacteria enters the body through a scrape or cut and the bacteria grows in tissues, releasing toxins that kill the surrounding tissue and compromising blood flow. As tissue dies, the bacteria is able to enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body.
While many types of bacteria can cause necrotizing fasciitis, the “flesh-eating bacteria” known as Streptococcus pyogenes is a very severe form that is usually fatal.
Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include small, red, painful lump or bump on the skin that changes to a very painful bruise-like area and grows rapidly (sometimes in less than one hour). The center may become black and die and the skin may break open and ooze. Other symptoms may include feeling ill, fever, sweating, chills, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and shock.
Immediate treatment is essential and includes strong antibiotics given by IV, surgery to remove dead skin and to drain the sore, administration of immunoglobins in some cases, skin grafts after the infection is resolved, amputation of a limb (if necessary in order to save one’s life), and hyperbaric oxygen therapy in certain cases.
If you or a loved one were injured due to hospital negligence, hospital malpractice, emergency room negligence, or emergency room malpractice in the United States, a prompt consultation with a local medical malpractice attorney can help you decide if you have the grounds for filing a medical malpractice claim and the parties against whom the claim(s) can be made.
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