Misdiagnosed Ear Infection Blamed for Hearing Loss but Jury Sides for the Doctor and Medical Group

Aaron Hein, 35, saw his family practice physician, Dr. Jean Engelkemeir at the doctor’s clinic; he was complaining of left ear pain, nasal drip and sore throat. It was Sept. 17, 2008 when Dr. Engelkemeir diagnosed Hein with otitis externa (inflammation/infection of the outer ear canal) and an upper respiratory infection. Dr. Engelkemeir prescribed Floxin antibiotic eardrops.

Hein called the doctor’s clinic two days later, Sept. 19, 2008 and told Dr. Engelkemeir that he was experiencing vertigo and nausea. The doctor prescribed Meclizine, which is an antihistamine.

Hein returned to the clinic on Sept. 22, 2008 and was seen by a different doctor at which time his outer ear pain, vertigo and nausea were improving, but his eardrum was bulging.

 Hein was diagnosed with an infection of the middle ear in addition to inflammation of the outer ear canal and was placed on oral antibiotics.

Again, Hein reported that he was improving, but returned on Sept. 24, 2008 to the clinic and was again seen by a different doctor who instructed him to continue both the oral antibiotics and eardrops. Sometime between Oct. 1 and Oct. 6, 2008, Hein developed a complete loss of hearing in his left ear, partial facial palsy and balance problems.

He was referred to an ENT at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where he was diagnosed with progressive otitis media with mastoditis (inner ear infection) as the cause of his hearing loss. The facial palsy resolved within six weeks, but Hein has permanent total hearing loss in the left ear with permanent balance problems affecting his employment as an equity trader as well as limiting his normal daily activities.

Hein contended that he had otitis media on Sept. 17, 2008 when he first came to see Dr. Engelkemeir who chose not to diagnose the condition on both Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, 2008.

Hein claimed that the defendants’ negligence resulted in a delay in appropriate treatment with the necessary antibiotics, which caused his condition to progress to an inner ear infection and permanent hearing loss.

The defendants argued at trial that Hein presented on Sept. 17 with the infection of the outer ear canal, which was correctly treated with topical antibiotic drops and that his later vertigo and nausea complaints were related to his upper respiratory infection. In addition, the defendants claimed that Hein did not have otitis media on either Sept. 17 or Sept. 19 and that his hearing loss was due to a rare non-diagnosable viral condition known as Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, which developed after the medical care provided by Dr. Engelkemeir. Defendants also contended that Hein had adjusted to being a one-ear listener and to balance issues and therefore he would not require any future medical care.

Before trial, a demand was made to settle this claim of medical malpractice for $1,500,000. There was no offer to settle and the jury’s verdict was in favor of both defendants.

Aaron Hein v. Dr. Jean Engelkemeir, et al., No. 10 L 10605 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, birth injury cases and nursing home abuse cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Justice, Midlothian, Calumet City, Joliet, Bolingbrook, Waukegan, Bedford Park, Stickney, Cicero, Harwood Heights, Hillside, Chicago (Stockyards, Grand Crossing, South Shore, East Side, Lake Calumet, Pullman), Villa Park and Itasca, Ill.

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