Jury Awards $1.5 million for Tragic Illinois Newborn Death – Diaz v. Central DuPage Hospital

A DuPage County medical malpractice verdict was returned in favor of the surviving family members of five day-old Isaac Diaz. Baby Isaac died after physicians delayed in performing surgery that could have prevented his death from a bowel obstruction. The $1.5 million verdict was entered in Estate of Diaz v. Central DuPage Hospital, et al, 06 L 448 (DuPage County).

Just five days after his birth, Isaac Diaz began vomiting yellow bile and had blood streaked through his stool. After the symptoms failed to resolve on their own, his mother took Isaac to Central DuPage Hospital’s emergency room. Within twenty-five minutes of his arrival, Isaac was seen by the Dr. Panfil, an emergency room doctor. Dr. Panfil took the preventive measures of placing Isaac on antibiotics and ordered an IV be placed. Then, in an attempt to figure out the source of Isaac’s vomiting and blood-streaked stool, Dr. Panfil ordered a range of labs, x-rays, and consulted with Dr. Pearce-Falls, the hospital’s pediatrician.

By the time Dr. Pearce-Falls consulted with Dr. Panfil, the x-rays results were already available. Because the x-rays were negative, Dr. Pearce-Falls elected to order an upper GI series, which would show the infant’s stomach region in more detail, possibly highlighting a problem unseen on the x-rays. Because of the severe nature of baby Isaac’s symptoms, the upper GI series was ordered STAT, meaning it was meant to be done urgently.

However, despite the rush placed on the scans, the upper GI series results were not available until almost three hours after Isaac arrived in the ER. The studies showed that Isaac had a bowel obstruction and would need surgery to remove the obstruction. Dr. Pearce-Falls then contacted Central DuPage Hospital’s sole pediatric surgeon, Dr. Geissler. Yet Dr. Geissler was not only not at the hospital at the time, but then informed Dr. Pearce-Falls that he would not be able to come in and perform the surgery because he was leaving town. Dr. Geissler instead suggested that Isaac be transferred to Chicago’s Children Memorial Hospital.

Because of the delays required by the transfer, Isaac did not enter surgery for four hours after his bowel obstruction was originally diagnosed. By the time the surgery was performed his bowel was already dead and necrotic. The surgeons at Children’s Memorial Hospital were unable to salvage any of Isaac’s bowel and he died within a few hours of the failed surgery.

Isaac’s parents and four siblings brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Central DuPage Hospital and Dr. Panfil and Dr. Pearce-Falls. The complaint accused the physicians of failing to timely diagnose Isaac’s twisted bowel and ensuring that he underwent surgery emergently. The estate further contended that Central DuPage Hospital was negligent because it failed to keep its staff informed of the availability of its sole pediatric surgeon.

In response, the defendants argued that they had met the standard of care in diagnosing and treating Isaac’s bowel obstruction. In its defense, the hospital and doctors pointed to the well-known window of six hours that exists between the onset of vomiting until one experiences complete bowel necrosis. It pointed to the mother’s testimony that Isaac’s vomiting had begun before 4:00 p.m., which would mean his bowel was already completely necrotic by 10:00 p.m. Isaac was not brought to the ER until 7:30 p.m., leaving the physicians just two and a half hours to diagnose and operate on Isaac’s bowel obstruction. The defendants argued that even if its staff pediatric surgeon had been on site, that he still would have been unable to perform the surgery before the 10:00 cut-off.

Given the multiple defendants and the technical nature of the wrongful death lawsuit, the jury took over two days to reach its verdict. The jury entered a not guilty verdict against Dr. Panfil, the ER physician; Dr. Pearce-Falls had been dismissed without prejudice prior to the trial. Therefore, the jury verdict of $1.5 million was entered solely against Central DuPage Hospital and was entirely for damages related to the survival pain and suffering of Isaac’s parents and four siblings.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois wrongful death matters for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Hinsdale, Elmwood Park, Northlake, Mount Prospect, and Lansing.

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