State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Parents in Medical Malpractice Claim over Daughter's Death

There was a victory in court earlier this month for the parents of a nine-year-old girl who died after being treated with a potentially dangerous drug when visiting the emergency room with symptoms of a stomach virus. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a lower court was mistaken in deciding the case in the defendants’ favor without allowing the question of the doctor’s failure to gain informed consent for a potentially dangerous treatment to go to the jury. With this legal victory, the family can move the case toward a jury verdict or final settlement.

A Young Girl is Brought to the Emergency Room with Stomach Symptoms

pills-1326852The plaintiffs’ daughter was brought by her family to the defendant hospital’s emergency room, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting. She was diagnosed with a stomach virus and dehydration, and she was given Reglan, a drug usually prescribed to treat nausea that can increase diarrhea. The patient was also given fluids through an IV and was checked out of the hospital with instructions to continue taking the Reglan.

After returning home, the child was given the drugs as directed, although her diarrhea continued to worsen. The family called the doctor, complaining of worsening symptoms each of the next three days, and was repeatedly told to give the medicine time to work. The child’s condition worsened, and on the fourth night after her initial release from the hospital, the child fell unconscious and was brought to the hospital, where she died of cardiac arrest.

According to testimony from the case, the child’s severely dehydrated state contributed significantly to her death and was worsened by the defendant’s use of Reglan, which commonly induces diarrhea and is not approved for use in children or people in a dehydrated state. The lawsuit additionally claims that the defendants could have used a better, approved medicine, and that they should have obtained the consent of the child’s parents for the off-label use of the drug on a child.

The Trial Court Rules for Defendants and Forces Two Appeals

At trial, the defendants secured a verdict in their favor by convincing the judge of the plaintiffs’ failure to present sufficient expert testimony to raise the issue that treatment with Reglan contributed to the plaintiffs’ daughter’s death. The court ruled that the plaintiffs’ medical expert’s testimony was not sufficient for a jury to decide on the merits of the case, instead ruling for the defendants outright.

The plaintiffs appealed the case and initially lost, forcing them to the Supreme Court of Hawaii. Hawaii’s highest state court reiterated the state law requirements to raise a triable issue of fact in a state medical malpractice lawsuit, and it reversed the lower courts’ decisions. The court ruled that the plaintiffs’ medical expert testified sufficiently to the dangers of the drug to make the doctor’s use of the drug in treating the nine-year-old patient without informed consent an issue for which the jury could have been able to find the defendant liable. The court additionally ruled that the expert’s testimony concerning the warnings on the package insert with the medication created a triable issue of fact. The case is being remanded to the trial court for a new trial.

Are You a Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, contacting a qualified Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorney is the best way to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. The Maryland and D.C. medical malpractice attorneys at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt have the experience that is needed to have our clients’ cases fairly settled or decided by a jury at the trial or pretrial level. We are networked with some of the most competent and most respected experts in the medical field, so you can be confident that your case is being handled in an efficient and effective manner. The Maryland malpractice attorneys at Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt represent victims of medical malpractice and negligence nationwide. Call us today at (410) 998-3600 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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