HO&P files wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Texas man whose wife died when flesh-eating bacteria was not diagnosed

by Jay Pate

A Dallas, Texas-area woman bumped her arm against a railing one day a couple years ago. She did not immediately experience significant pain; however, over the next two days, her arm gradually swelled, grew increasingly sore and became discolored. She also developed symptoms resembling the flu.

Several days later, she awoke feeling very ill. She and her husband went to RHD Memorial Medical Center in Farmers Branch, Texas. She was placed under the care of emergency room physician Deborah S. Boyer, M.D. and physician assistant Herman J. Splatt, PCA. According to the records, the health care providers were advised that their patient had been suffering from nausea, diarrhea, chills and persistent, worsening arm pain. A flu swab and x-rays were taken, but the test results showed that she did not have the flu and that her arm was not broken. No further tests or examinations were performed. She was diagnosed with a contusion (bruise) and hematoma (localized collection of blood) to her right forearm and arm as well as with a viral upper respiratory infection. She was given Lortab for pain and over-the-counter cold medicine. She left the hospital a few hours after arriving.

The next day, she was still feeling ill and the appearance of her arm had worsened. As the day wore on, her condition deteriorated. Her husband took her to the Medical City Dallas Emergency Room. Shortly after being admitted, her husband was told that she had been suffering from a severe flesh-eating bacterial infection in her arm. The following day, surgery was performed to remove the infected arm tissue, but she died at 5: 10 p.m. The cause of death on the medical examiner’s report is sepsis due to necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating disease or flesh-eating bacteria syndrome).

Heygood, Orr & Pearson is now pursuing a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s surviving husband.

Medical experts in emergency room care have reviewed the case and are of the opinion that this woman died because of the failure of the physician’s assistant and doctor at RHD Memorial Medical Center to recognize and treat the flesh-eating bacterial infection. Sadly, it appears that Dr. Boyer never ever actually visited with or examined the woman during her hours at RHD Memorial Medical Center. Instead, it appears that only the physician’s assistant saw her before she was discharged (to die two days later).

According to medical experts who have provided written “expert reports” in the pending lawsuit, given the woman’s symptoms and history, the health care providers involved were negligent for failing to admit her to the hospital. Furthermore, according to those experts, if the health care professionals responsible for treating the woman that day would have only acted properly, the woman would have been admitted to the hospital and she would have promptly received the care she so desperately needed. These experts feel that, more likely than not, such care would have saved her life.

There is a special provision of Texas law regarding “emergency medical care.” Basically, because actual “emergency medical care” can sometimes require that very complex medical choices be made quite quickly, the law justly makes it a little more difficult to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit under such circumstances. Instead of proving that a doctor was “negligent,” one has to prove that a doctor providing “emergency medical care” acted with “willful or wanton” negligence.

In this case, Dr. Bower and physician assistant Splatt have both admitted that they did not even recognize the woman as needing any sort of “emergency medical care” and, furthermore, have both admitted that they in fact did not provide her any “emergency medical care”. Nonetheless, they attempted to argue that the “emergency medical care” statute should somehow still apply to protect them. We are proud to report that the court agreed with us and has ruled that the provision does not apply to this case. Thus, we are back at work, getting ready to demonstrate to a jury that this woman should still be alive.

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have the experience and expertise to assist injured patients with their medical malpractice claims. Our attorneys have successfully represented numerous victims of medical malpractice. Among our attorneys’ recent verdicts, settlements and results are the following:

  • Jim Orr negotiated a $6.75 million settlement for the family of an 8 year-old child who suffered permanent brain damage due to medical errors occurring at a VA hospital.
  • Michael Heygood achieved a $2.2 million jury verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit arising from the premature discharge of a newborn infant from the hospital with low glucose levels.
  • Eric Pearson argued the appeal in Columbia Medical Center of Las Colinas, Inc. v. Hogue, 271 S.W.3d 238 (Tex. 2009), in which the Texas Supreme Court upheld a gross negligence finding against the defendant hospital in a medical malpractice case and affirmed the jury’s $9 million verdict on behalf of his clients.

At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have the knowledge, experience and financial resources necessary to prosecute even the most complex medical negligence case. If you believe you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, please contact us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by filling out our free online contact form for a no-cost consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

by Jay Pate

John “Jay” Pate is a licensed attorney who focuses his practice on complex tort litigation involving catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and product liability cases.