$7.6M For Plaintiff After Bacterial Infection Misdiagnosed As Ankle Sprain
A plaintiff has been awarded $7.6 million after a doctor misdiagnosed a bacterial infection for an ankle sprain resulting in the plaintiff losing part of his lower leg. The bacterial infection had become so severe that the former firefighter required amputation. For obvious reasons, he can no longer work as a firefighter.
The firefighter had been exposed to waters in Pensacola Bay where he is believed to have developed an infection. His leg turned blue and began to ache, according to the complaint. As the pain began to worsen, the firefighter took himself to a local urgent care center where he was diagnosed with an ankle sprain and instructed to rest, ice, and elevate.
The next day, the firefighter went to a podiatrist where it was immediately suspected that the plaintiff had acquired an aggressive bacterial infection. It was later determined that the plaintiff had acquired a flesh-eating bacteria that required antibody treatment and removal of the gangrenous flesh.
Despite numerous efforts to treat the infected area, the firefighter ended up losing his leg. Because of the misdiagnosis and the aggressive nature of the infection, the leg could not be saved due to medical intervention.
To win a medical malpractice lawsuit, you must not only prove that your doctor made a mistake, but you must also prove that the mistake led to the negative outcome. It, therefore, became possible for the doctor against whom the lawsuit was filed to claim that a 1-day delay in treatment would not have saved the firefighter’s leg. In this case, that argument failed.
Misdiagnosis lawsuits involve delays in medical treatment that produce negative outcomes for patients. In this case, a 1-day delay in medical treatment due to the misdiagnosis resulted in a firefighter losing his leg. Even when it’s clear that the doctor made a mistake, the doctor can still argue that the delay in treatment did not cause the patient’s negative outcome. For example, if the bacterial infection could not be stopped by earlier intervention, then the misdiagnosis did not “cause” the patient’s negative outcome. It would have happened anyway.
These are the sorts of arguments that juries are treated to when they hear a medical malpractice case. Do we know for a fact that the plaintiff’s condition would have been improved by earlier treatment? Not necessarily. The plaintiff may have had immuno-deficiencies that contributed to the failure of the antibody treatment.
The doctor would have had to present evidence that a bacterial infection as advanced as the plaintiffs would have responded the same way to treatment a day earlier than a day late. The plaintiff would have presented evidence that earlier intervention could have saved the leg. In this case, the jury sided with the plaintiff.
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