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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

$40 Million Medical Malpractice Settlement – A Child’s Life Remains Destroyed

Caps on medical malpractice verdicts raise real issues of due process, right to trial and fundamental fairness. Therefore, it seems appropriate to occasionally publicize med mal cases and settlements that illustrate the incredible human and financial burdens created by medical errors. Accordingly, here’s the full text of  a July 24, 2018 story from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.

“By Sarah Mansur Law Bulletin staff writer The parents of a 12-year-old girl who sustained brain damage during treatment for strep throat at Highland Park Hospital reached a $40 million settlement.

That’s the highest settlement reported in Cook County Circuit Court for a brain-damage case involving a minor, according to John L. Kirkton, editor of the Jury Verdict Reporter, a division of Law Bulletin Media.

Alyssa Matney’s parents sued Highland Park Hospital, an affiliate of NorthShore University Health System, in October. The suit alleged their daughter’s brain injury could have been prevented if she were transferred to a children’s hospital and if she had received the appropriate care from staff during the five days she was treated.

Alyssa arrived at Highland Park Hospital’s emergency room on Oct. 18, 2016, and the following day she was diagnosed with strep throat and mononucleosis, according to the complaint.

Alyssa’s strep throat and mononucleosis were symptoms of an infection from an abscess deep in her throat, said Joseph W. Balesteri, a partner at Power Rogers & Smith LLP, and one of the attorneys who represents the Matneys.

“The infection source and site is really significant, and it was burrowed into her lower throat,” Balesteri said.

On Oct. 20 and 21, Alyssa was unable to ingest food or medicine by mouth. She also continued to show low blood-oxygen levels as well as abnormally rapid breathing and heart rate, according to the complaint.

Balesteri argued Alyssa’s worsening conditions on Oct. 20 and 21 should have prompted the hospital staff to consult with a pediatric intensive care unit and transfer Alyssa to a children’s hospital for further evaluation.

He argued the hospital staff should have recognized the need for a neck CT scan in light of Alyssa’s deteriorating condition that would have revealed the location of her bacterial infection and narrowed airway.

On Oct. 22, hospital staff focused on making sure Alyssa was receiving nutrition and attempted to insert a tube through her nose, down the esophagus and into her stomach. This tube coiled in the back of her throat.

In the evening of Oct. 22, hospital staff tried again to provide Alyssa with nutrition with a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC, according to the complaint. Alyssa was first sedated with Dilaudid and Benadryl.

After staff inserted the PICC line, they laid Alyssa on her back despite her difficulty breathing. At that point, her breathing stopped and she went into cardiac arrest, Balesteri said.

After about three to six minutes, Alyssa was resuscitated with an emergency airway. Her cardiac arrest resulted in a catastrophic brain injury, Balesteri said.

“Because she’s a kid, she survives all of that … and lives in this horrible condition of not being able to communicate or walk or engage that will go on for the rest of her life,” he said.

Balesteri argued the hospital staff could have prevented Alyssa’s heart attack and resulting brain injury if it performed a neck CT scan before inserting the nasogastric tube, then sedating her and inserting a PICC line.

He said the settlement will allow Alyssa’s parents to provide professional full-time nursing care to their daughter at home, which the family was unable to afford. Joseph A. Power Jr., of Power Rogers Smith, also represented the Matneys.

Cook County Associate Judge Allen Price Walker dismissed the case and authorized the settlement on June 27.

In Lake County Circuit Court’s Probate Division, Associate Judge Donna-Jo Vorderstrasse approved the settlement on Thursday.

NorthShore University Health System, doing business as Highland Park Hospital, is represented by Michael Slovis, a principal at Cunningham Meyer & Vedrine P.C.

“Our client has been very committed since this event occurred to do what is best for the patient and her family, and we believe that resolving this case quickly did so,” Slovis said.

The case is Angela Matney, et al., v. NorthShore University Health System, et al., 17 L 010109.

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