June 12, 2003
A nine-month old boy running a high fever was examined by a pediatrician, who attributed the fever to a viral infection. The fever did not improve. Two days later, another pediatrician from the same group called the child’s mother to ascertain how the child was feeling. When the child still didn’t improve, the mother took the boy back to the pediatric group. The lethargic child was examined and quickly taken to the ER, but died hours later of bacterial meningitis. The Plaintiff linked the death to alleged substandard care by both pediatricians: the first for not correctly diagnosing the meningitis and second for not inquiring more carefully during the phone call. Donald Brown and Clay Edwards represented both doctors. The defendants developed a causation defense, arguing that (1) the severity of the meningitis made the diagnosis error irrelevant and (2) the first pediatrician was, in fact, partly correct in his diagnosis of a viral infection as the boy suffered a co-infection, viral and bacterial. The Jefferson County jury exonerated both doctors, awarding the Plaintiff none of the sought 2.2 million dollars.