$9M medical malpractice verdict upheld in case of woman with undiagnosed brain infection
A California Appeals Court has upheld the $9million medical malpractice settlement awarded to Maria Theresa Sanchez who suffered serious brain damage after her neurosurgeon failed to diagnose an infection in the shunt in her brain leaving Sanchez with disabling and permanent brain damage.
Dr. Harley Deere, M.D. was Sanchez's physician at the time of her illness and the original jury found that CareMore Medical Group was liable since he was an agent, or employee, of the medical group.
CareMore appealed the verdict and in a decision by the Second District Court of Appeals in California, the court upheld the verdict.
Sanchez had a peritoneal shunt placed in her brain in childhood because of condition called hydrocephalus. In 2003, when Sanchez was 37-year-olds, her sister took her to CareMore because of persistent headaches. Her primary care physician, Dr. Keipp, prescribed Tylenol for Theresa and did not examine her. A few days later, when Sanchez's condition worsened, she was taken to an Emergency Room at Downey Regional Medical Center which was not affiliated with CareMore. The physician at Downey suspected an infection of the shunt which might be life-threatening but he transferred her to a hospital affiliated with CareMore because CareMore did not cover care at Downey.
From that point on, Sanchez's medical care provided by CareMore was inadequate. Her condition deteriorated but she was denied timely access to a physician and the physicians failed to adequately examine her or diagnose her problem because the physicians failed to review the case notes sent over by Downey. Sanchez was discharged from the hospital and had to obtain permission to see Dr. Deere and on the occasions she did see him, his examination of her was only cursory.
Approximately five months after her initial complaint, Sanchez was diagnosed as having a brain infection. By that time, however, Sanchez's condition was so severe that she was left partially paralyzed, suffers constant pain and must be cared for by others.
Washington state statute finds that a health care provider is negligent if his or her conduct falls below the "standard of care." The statute reads:
The “standard of care” in Washington provides that a health care provider is negligent if he or she “failed to exercise that degree of care, skill, and learning expected of a reasonably prudent health care provider at that time in the profession or class to which he belongs, in the state of Washington, acting in the same or similar circumstances” and “such failure was a proximate cause of the injury complained of.” RCW 7.70.040(1), (2).
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