A nine-year-old boy presented to his primary care pediatrician in October, 2004 with symptoms of frequent urination and neck “stretching.” The doctor attributed the symptoms to anxiety and/or stress, brought about by the family’s recent move from Israel to the United States. The child’s mother consulted with the pediatrician by phone on at least two occasions following the October, 2004 office exam. It was undisputed that the mother reported occasional headaches and fatigue in one of these calls. The patient was next seen for an office exam on March 15, 2005, reporting headaches, dizziness, visual disturbances, shoulder pain and increased fatigue. Still, the doctor’s assessment remained that patient’s symptoms were related to stress or anxiety. The youngster was seen again on March 30, 2005, with complaints of acute shoulder pain. Between April 1, 2005 and May 9, 2005, the child’s pain symptoms worsened and evolved. After a phone call on April 18, 2005 in which the mother reported “pain all over,” the doctor noted in the chart: “doubt underlying organic DZ (disease).”
On May 9, 2005, the child was examined by the pediatricians partner, who was covering for the vacationing doctor. The partner ordered a direct admit to The Children’s Hospital in Denver, where a MRI of the C-spine revealed a juvenile pilocystic astrocytoma (JPA) in the suprasellar/hypothalamic region of the youngster’s brain. The radiologist noted that the tumor was “obliterating” the third ventricle. When an emergency ventriculostomy to decompress and reduce intracranial pressure was performed, the tumor bled, necessitating a craniotomy to debulk the tumor. The bleed and craniotomy caused profound cognitive deficits, blindness in the right eye, partial blindness in the left eye, diabetes insipidus, significant Tourette-type tics and other significant damage.
The plaintiffs brought suit against the pediatrician only, contenting that she negligently failed to timely refer the child for a diagnostic MRI based upon his history of headaches; visual disturbances; worrisome and inexplicable radiating pain in neck, shoulders, and groin; and in the face of progressive weight loss.
The plaintiffs’ experts testified that a diagnosis made 30 days earlier would have allowed sufficient time to institute 3 cycles of chemotherapy, which would have controlled further growth of the tumor, preventing the bleed and the need for the craniotomy. At trial, it was demonstrated that patient would need lifetime care, that he would not be able to earn a living, and that he would need full-time assisted living. A complete life care plan was generated and priced to a net present value.
On behalf of the boy and his mother, Chalat Hatten & Koupal achieved one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Colorado’s history: $10,100,000.00, comprised of $9,000,000.00 in economic damages, including life care planning, lost earnings, and future medical expenses for the child, and $1,100,000.00 in economic damages for mother for past medical expenses and future medical expenses until the child turns age 18. No damages were awarded for pain and suffering, impairment or disfigurement. (In any event, Colorado caps such non-economic damages at $300,000.00).
Past results are no guarantee of future results.