A Chicago federal judge entered a Chicago medical malpractice verdict in the amount of $8,8330,182 against the United States following a bench trial. In July 2004, Ernesto Maldonado was a patient at Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital. He was admitted because of pneumonia. A few days after the admission, a CT scan was done of Maldonado’s chest and back. The scans revealed destruction of a vertebral body in the mid-thoracic spine (T-7). Maldonado v. United States of America, et al., 06 C 4149 (January 2010).
The radiology report stated that the vertebra was destroyed. But neither Maldonado’s treating doctor, interventional radiologist, nor infectious disease physician ever followed up with treatment. The patient was never referred to an orthopedic surgeon or for a neurosurgery consultation. Five days later Mr. Maldonado was discharged and antibiotics were discontinued.
The plaintiff, Mr. Maldonado then attempted to see his attending physician at his office. But this doctor refused to see him. By August 14, 2004 the plaintiff had lost sensation in his low legs and he became urine incontinent.
He was taken to the emergency department at Rush University Medical Center where he was diagnosed with osteomyelitis of the thoracic spine, which resulted in compression of the nerves in his spinal column. Osteomyelitis is bone infection. Maldonado had become paralyzed at the T7-8 level.
Emergency surgery was done at Rush University Medical Center followed by six more surgeries over the next two months. Mr. Maldonado remained hospitalized at Rush and then Bowman Rehab Hospital until December 2004. At the time of the trial, he was nearly totally paraplegic, wheelchair bound, incontinent and impotent. His medical bills totalled $816,182.
At the trial, plaintiff’s experts contended that had the bacterial spinal infection been timely treated with intravenous antibiotics, the patient, Mr. Maldonado would likely have had a complete recovery.
The case was filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act because Mount Sinai Hospital was a federally-funded facility and its employees were deemed to be agents or employees of the federal government, the U.S. Public Health Service.
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