Family of Kentucky Infant Awarded $6 Million in Malpractice Lawsuit

The Boyd Circuit Court jury awarded $6.2 million to the family of an infant who died in the King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC) Emergency Room in 2010 for alleged negligence.

The jury found that Dr. John P. Short, osteopath, and his employer, Ashland Emergency Medical Associates (AEMA), which contracts with KDMC to provide emergency department services, were liable in the death of 2-month-old infant Willis.  After a week long trial, the panel awarded $6.2 million to Derrick and Shara Willis, the infant’s parents.

The complaint states that Willis’ death was directly attributed to suffocation, as a result of the improper placement of an endotracheal tube performed by Dr. Short.

Willis’ estate filed a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging that John P. Short, osteopath, was negligent for not staying with the patient and monitoring him. The patient was in respiratory failure after Dr. Short treated him. Jurors ordered Short to pay the Willis’ $3 million.

The jury also ordered AMEA to pay $3.2 million to the couple for their negligence in supervising Short.

A Boyd jury found that the osteopath failed to exercise the level of care and expertise expected from a competent Emergency Room physician and that this failure was a major factor in the patient’s death.

According to the lawsuit, the Willis’ took their son to the KDMC Emergency Room on January 26, 2010. The infant showed signs of bronchiolitis, a common respiratory tract illness seen in infants. Bronchiolitis is caused by an infection that affects their tiny airways (bronchioles) leading to the lungs. As the airways become inflamed, they become swollen and filled with mucus, making it difficult to breathe.

After two days of treatment, the baby’s condition worsened into respiratory failure. The attending physician requested assistance in intubating the infant.  Short responded to the request for assistance, despite never having intubated an infant before in his career.

Short performed a tracheal intubation, which means a tube was inserted down into the infant’s windpipe in order to maintain and open the airways. However, the jury determined this was done improperly, compromising the baby’s ability to breathe, causing him to suffocate, the lawsuit states. Experts testified that the endotracheal tube became dislodged in the trachea, causing the baby to suffer oxygen deprivation, causing suffocation.

Short left the room immediately after the procedure was performed.

The jury award comprised medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of affection and companionship, as well as damages for negligent hiring and supervision against the defendant physician’s employer.

Derrick Willis is a former Boyd County commonwealth’s attorney.  He currently holds the same position in the 37th Judicial District.

A hearing is scheduled for March 2014 to hear the complaint against Short.

Do you think Dr. Short exercised proper medical decisions when he intubated the infant, even though he had never done this procedure before?  Feel free to comment on this blog post. For more information contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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