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April 9, 2015
Congratulations to Chuck Monnett of Charles G. Monnett III & Associates of Charlotte and Randy Scarlett of the Scarlett Law Group of San Francisco on successfully resolving a medical negligence case for a 1-year-old child who was admitted to a North Carolina Hospital for observation following skull fractures caused by an accident at home. Although initial CTs demonstrated multiple skull fractures, the child appeared neurologically normal. On the first full night of admission, the child spiked a fever to 104.8. Although the nature and location of the fractures increased the risk the child could develop bacterial meningitis, the child’s doctors failed to prescribe antibiotics or perform a lumbar puncture following the fever. Physicians did order a blood culture which later showed the presence of gram positive bacteria in the child’s blood. Despite the increased risk and blood culture results, a diagnosis of possible pneumonia was made and treatment begun with low levels of the wrong antibiotics (at insufficient levels to treat meningitis). The child’s neurological status later declined. By the time meningitis was seriously considered, treatment was too late and the child suffered severe neurologic complications.
Monnett and Scarlett took the case to trial with no offer from the defendants. The trial was bifurcated (proof of negligence prior to evidence regarding the amount of damages). The Defendants’ arguments were primarily based upon a claim that the fractures did not communicate with a source of infection, so there was no reason to suspect meningitis. In addition, they argued that the child’s mental status remained normal until a sudden and rapid decline caused by a rare form of fulminate meningitis. During trial, the plaintiffs were able to show the initial CTs demonstrated fractures that directly communicated between the mastoid air cells, middle ear, and cranial cavity. This location was also the site where evidence of meningitis was most pronounced on later imaging studies. After three weeks of trial on the liability phase of the case, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs. The parties then agreed to a $13,000,000 settlement prior to the start of the damages phase of trial.
Multiple illustrations, 3D reconstructions of CT data (3D Precision Diagnostics), and a 3D printed physical model of the skull were developed and successfully used during the trial to support the Plaintiffs’ arguments and experts’ testimony.
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