Berks County Jury Awards $1.7 Million Verdict to Family of Infant Who Died After A Medical Misdiagnosis

When the family of a three-month-old girl brought her into the emergency room of Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Reading, Berks County, on Dec. 16, 2007, the baby was suffering from a 103-degree fever.

The infant, Emma Takacs, was seen by a doctor who diagnosed her with a middle-ear infection, prescribed an antibiotic and discharged her, according to a June 25 story in The Legal Intelligencer.

The next morning, the baby was found to be “pale, cool to the touch and lethargic” and was rushed to her pediatrician’s office and then transferred to Lehigh Valley Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with pneumococcal meningitis, hypoxic brain injury and hydrocephalus, according to the story. Some 21 months later, on Sept. 15, 2009, the baby “died of respiratory complications related to the infection.”

On June 14, following a week-long trial, a Berks County jury ruled in favor of the infant’s parents in a medical malpractice case against the original emergency room physician, Dr. Duane D. Siberski, and Reading Hospital. The surviving family was awarded $1.7 million in damages in the case, according to the Intelligencer.

Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord, according to the Meningitis Research Foundation. “Pneumococcal meningitis occurs when the bacteria that have invaded the bloodstream move across to infect the ‘meninges’ (the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord).” A hypoxic brain injury occurs when a patient’s brain does not get enough oxygen. And hydrocephalus is a condition where a patient suffers from an excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The 10-2 jury verdict sided with the family’s claims that the doctor “failed to diagnose a bacterial meningitis infection” which was making the baby seriously ill, according to the story. The infant’s parents are Anna and Charles Takacs.

“The plaintiffs argued in their memorandum that the applicable standard of care required Siberski to order, at minimum, a blood count and urinalysis to rule out the possibility of bacteremia and meningitis, regardless of the presence of an ear infection,” the story reported. “Those test results would have been abnormal, prompting further blood testing and possibly a lumbar puncture, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum.”

The plaintiffs also argued that Siberski erred by not scheduling a follow-up visit within 24 to 48 hours of the first emergency room visit when he treated the baby, the story stated. Instead, the doctor had “discharged Takacs with the instruction that her parents bring her back for a follow-up ”as needed,'” which did not meet the standard of care he should have maintained, the story said.

“Dr. Danny Benjamin, the plaintiffs’ infectious diseases expert, opined that had Siberski complied with the standard of care, Takacs would have been diagnosed and treated for an infection before a catastrophic brain injury occurred, according to the plaintiffs’ memorandum,” reported the Intelligencer.

The jury awarded the family $860,000 for their infant daughter’s future lost earnings and $860,000 for her pain and suffering, the report stated.

This tragic case is a somber reminder of the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in hospitals and other medical facilities and become innocent victims of inadequate or incorrect procedures.

Patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care they receive so they know what is being done for a patient’s care every step of the way. But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask.

That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment. These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to battle for their clients’ rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a medical malpractice or related case anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.