A Lancaster County jury awarded a Pennsylvania mother, who sued doctors and a medical practice over the 2010 death of her 32-day-old daughter, $4 million in damages. The baby girl died of complications from pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough. The jury also awarded over $1.1 million on a wrongful death claim, and almost $1.9 million on a survival claim.
Michelle Goldstein filed a civil lawsuit in March 2016, claiming that Lancaster Pediatric Associates should have diagnosed and treated her daughter earlier, as the mother had described having symptoms of the disease herself and had requested that the baby be tested. The mother indicated that she had recently been on a trip to California, where a whooping cough outbreak had occurred.
According to Goldstein’s pretrial conference memo, the baby girl was born on September 5, 2010 and died from complications caused by whooping cough just 32 days later. The baby had been born three weeks premature, and had begun having an unusual cough just two days after the birth.
The memo also stated that the baby had coughing fits in front of the doctors named in the complaint. The mother had mentioned her recent visit to California, and also noted that there had been a pertussis outbreak in Lancaster and York counties. The memo goes on to say, though, that the doctors ended up dismissing her concerns as those of a paranoid first-time mother.
On September 14, 2010, the mother took the baby to an urgent care center where she was instructed to use an over-the-counter cough suppressant. However, the baby’s condition continued to worsen, and a chest X-ray was eventually performed. One doctor eventually agreed with a nurse’s recommendation that the infant should be treated with an inhaler to treat her congestion.
The doctors, though, denied that Goldstein had told them to check for pertussis. However, the jury credited the mother’s testimony, and rejected the argument that discovering the condition earlier would not have saved the baby. In their pretrial memo, the doctors argued that their treatment was within the standard of care, and that none of the doctors would have refused to test the infant for whooping cough, had the mother asked them to.
The jury found the practice, and two of its physicians, to be liable for two visits, when the baby started to show symptoms. The award came at the conclusion of a trial, which lasted over a week, before the Lancaster County Common Pleas court. The jury determined that two doctors who saw the infant early on were not negligent, but that the Lancaster Pediatric Associates were 50% at fault for the death. The two additional doctors, each determined to be negligent, were also found to each be 25% at fault.
A nurse practitioner reached an undisclosed settlement prior to the trial. However, the jury sheet suggested that the jury did not believe that the nurse was negligent. According to the Trib Live, an attorney for Lancaster Pediatric Associates states that they plan to appeal the verdict.