$1.8 Million Verdict for Failure to Diagnose Pneumonia

Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney, Brian C. Hall, secured a $1,800,000 verdict for the failure timely to diagnose and treat pneumonia caused by a fungus.

The plaintiff, a 45 year old woman, was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disorder, in 1990. She lived with the disease for over 15 years and rarely had any complications or flare ups. In 2006, the plaintiff had a mild lupus flare and was placed on a steroid to prevent any further complications. Upon the completion of her steroid regimen, the plaintiff developed a cough and a fever and visited her family doctor. Her family doctor diagnosed her with an acute respiratory infection and she was placed on an antibiotic. Nine days later she again visited her primary care physician complaining of the same symptoms as well as a fever and shortness of breath. She was diagnosed once again with an acute respiratory infection and a common cold and was sent home.

Four days later the plaintiff sought treatment at a local emergency room. Her symptoms had worsened as she was now nauseated and was vomiting. A chest x-ray was ordered and the emergency room doctor concluded she had bacterial pneumonia. The results of the x-ray were inconsistent with bacterial pneumonia but no other tests were ordered to define the inconsistent finding. The plaintiff was prescribed antibiotics and sent home. The antibiotics did not work and she returned to the emergency room with worsening shortness of breath, fever of 101.2°F, and worsening nausea and vomiting and was admitted to the hospital. Although her shortness of breath persisted despite antibiotics, the admitting doctor did not undertake any studies to determine what kind of pneumonia the plaintiff had.

Two days after admittance and after being seen by a new doctor, a chest CT scan was ordered and completed. The test suggested that the plaintiff had fungal pneumonia and the next day blood and sputum cultures taken and a pulmonary consultation ordered and done. Before tests returned or treatment could be modified, the plaintiff was found unresponsive and not breathing in her hospital bed. Unfortunately, she could not be resuscitated. An autopsy confirmed that the patient died as the result of the fungal pneumonia.

At trial, Mr. Hall argued that the doctors and hospital were negligent in their care of his client. Knowing that she had a disease that compromised her immune system and that she was unresponsive to steroids and antibiotics, further tests should have been done to identify the type of pneumonia the plaintiff had contracted. Proper diagnosis and treatment would have saved the plaintiff’s life.