Cook County Emergency Room Malpractice Verdict of $3.66 Million Awarded to Surviving Family of Two Year-Old Boy; Pettway v. Advocate Trinity Hospital

A recent Illinois emergency room malpractice lawsuit involving the death of a two year-old Chicago boy was recently before a Chicago jury, which awarded the surviving family members $3.66 million. The defendants involved doctors and staff at Trinity Hospital, a Chicago hospital affiliated with Advocate Health Care. The Illinois medical malpractice case was Pettway v. Advocate Trinity Hospital.

Although two year-old Justin Pettway had no history of seizures, one night his parents found him suffering from a grand mal seizure in his bed. His EMT mother and paramedic father rushed Justin to Chicago’s Advocate Trinity Hospital because it was the closest hospital.

The seizures that Justin was having lasted a total of 22 minutes, only stopping after the emergency room physicians ordered seizure-stopping medications. A medical decision was reached to transfer Justin to the University of Chicago Medical Center for further treatment. But before he could be transferred, a CT scan was ordered to rule out a brain bleed. It was during the transport from the emergency room errors occurred.

To move Justin to the radiology department from the ER for the scan, the emergency room heart monitor had to be disconnected and so that a portable monitor could be used instead. Although the medical records indicated that the transport took place with airway and breathing care, there were no specific entries in the hospital records that showed that any monitors were in place during that transport.

On the way to the CT scan, two nurses, a respiratory therapist, and an EMT student went along with the patient to the radiology department. Not one of these individuals could testify that they knew for sure that monitors were in place during that time. Likewise, none of these persons were able to testify that there were alarms set up for any system to monitor the patient. After the CT scans were completed the child was returned to the emergency department without a heartbeat and respiration. Justin was pronounced dead after almost an hour of resuscitation was unsuccessful.

The estate contended that Justin’s endotracheal tube became dislodged during either the transport to the CT or that the defendants chose not to monitor him or that those attending to him chose not to notice his hyperventilation. In any case Justin may have also died while being scanned and no one noticed on his return to the emergency department.

The defendants took the position at trial that Justin died of the sudden onset of cardiac arrest. Defendants’ experts gave testimony that the seizure Justin suffered was the kind that the medical literature supports a sudden cardiac death could occur during the postictal period which can last several hours after the seizures stop.

After the trial several of the jurors commented that they thought the leads for the monitors in the emergency department may not have been working properly. There was testimony by one of the nurses who said that she changed the leads on the ER monitor when the child’s heartbeat didn’t show up on his return from the CT. After the lead was changed she said the monitor showed ventricular fibrillation, but quickly changed again to no heart contractions.

However, despite the different theories put forth by the defense, the jury found in favor of Justin’s family, awarding them $3.66 million for the wrongful death of the two year-old boy.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois emergency room negligence lawsuits for over 30 years, serving those areas in and around Cook County, including Cicero, Barrington, Wheaton, and Bolingbrook.

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