In a significant medical malpractice case, Essentia Health, a health system serving 3 Midwest states, was ordered to pay $19 million to the parents of Johnny Galligan, now 10 years old, for misdiagnosing his meningitis at birth.
The incident unfolded in 2013 when Johnny, only 8 days old, exhibited symptoms like crying, lack of appetite and fever. His parents, Alina and Steve Galligan, took him to the Essentia Health-Ashland Clinic in Wisconsin. Dr. Andrew D. Snider, who saw Johnny, diagnosed him with reflux and constipation without further tests and sent him home with orders for a follow-up visit from a county nurse at their home the following day.
The nurse’s visit the next day raised alarms, leading to Johnny being taken to the emergency department at Memorial Medical Center. He was initially suspected of having a critical bowel obstruction and was transferred to Essentia Health in Duluth, Minnesota. There, his condition worsened, and he was finally diagnosed with meningitis at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
As a result of the delayed diagnosis, Johnny suffered permanent brain damage and is now nearly deaf and blind, confined to a wheelchair, and requires constant care.
In 2020, the Galligans filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against multiple parties, including Dr. Snider, Duluth Clinic LTD, Essentia Health–Ashland Clinic, and Memorial Hospital. However, a jury in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, dismissed the claims against all defendants except Duluth Clinic, holding it solely responsible for Johnny’s injuries.
The jury’s verdict mandated that Duluth Clinic pay the Galligan family a sum of $19 million. This compensation included a substantial portion, specifically $7.5 million, for Johnny’s future medical expenses and care requirements.
Although no amount of money can ever make up for the pain and suffering Johnny and his family have experienced because of his delayed diagnosis and treatment, the substantial compensation awarded to the Galligan family will help ensure that their child receives the necessary medical care and support he needs to live the best life possible under the circumstances.
What is medical negligence?
Medical malpractice, also known as medical negligence, occurs when a health care provider, like a doctor, nurse or hospital, does not meet the expected standard of care in their professional role, leading to patient harm.
The “standard of care” is a legal term that refers to the level and type of care that an average, prudent health care professional in a similar field would provide in similar circumstances. This standard is not a measure of the best care possible but, rather, what is reasonably competent and expected.
Medical negligence can take many forms, including:
- Failure to diagnose
- Delayed or inappropriate treatment
- Surgical errors, including anesthesia errors
- Incorrect medication or dosage
It’s important to distinguish medical negligence from instances where a treatment simply doesn’t yield the desired outcome or where a condition is inherently risky. Not all unfavorable medical outcomes are due to negligence. To qualify as negligent, the negative outcome must be directly linked to a deviation from the standard of care.
How do you prove medical negligence?
Proving medical negligence can be a complicated legal process that necessitates the help of an attorney with experience in medical malpractice cases. These are the general steps required to prove negligence and recover compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit:
- Establish a duty of care. First, it must be demonstrated that there was a professional relationship between the patient and the health care provider, establishing a duty of care. This means the health care professional was responsible for providing treatment or advice to the patient, creating an expectation for the standard of care to be met. This is fairly easy to do in most medical malpractice cases because all medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care.
- Prove there was a breach of duty. The core of a medical negligence claim is showing that the health care professional breached their duty of care. This involves proving that the care or treatment provided deviated from what is accepted as the standard practice in the medical community for similar cases. Expert testimony from medical professionals in the same field is often necessary to establish what the standard of care is and how it was breached.
- Prove causation. It must be proven that the breach of the standard of care directly caused the patient’s injury or harm. This causation link is critical; the harm must be a direct result of the health care professional’s actions or inactions.
- Demonstrate damages. Finally, there must be demonstrable harm or injury to the patient. This could be physical, emotional or financial. Damages could include additional medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Gathering and presenting evidence in medical negligence cases is complex and often requires detailed medical records, expert testimonies, and an understanding of medical practices and standards. Due to the complexity and specific nature of these cases in Florida, legal representation from a knowledgeable Tampa medical malpractice attorney is highly recommended to effectively navigate the legal process.
How long do you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida?
In Florida, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is generally 2 years from the date of the injury or the date when the injury was or should have reasonably been discovered. In most cases, this date cannot be more than 4 years from the date the injury occurred.
However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. For instance, in cases involving fraud, concealment or intentional misrepresentation by a health care provider, the statute of limitations can be extended, allowing the lawsuit to be filed up to 7 years from the date of the incident.
Additionally, in the case of minors, the statute of limitations may be extended until the child turns 8 years old. This means that if a child was a victim of medical malpractice, a lawsuit could be filed at any point before they turn 8, regardless of when the malpractice occurred.
Because the timing for filing these types of lawsuits can be complex and is subject to various legal interpretations and exceptions, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice law in Florida to understand how these rules apply to your specific case.
Get help from an experienced Tampa medical malpractice attorney
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical mistake in Florida, the skilled Tampa personal injury attorneys at Lorenzo & Lorenzo are here to assist you. With extensive experience in medical malpractice law, our team is dedicated to helping you navigate the complex legal process and secure the justice and compensation you deserve.