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ER Physicians Miss Staph Infection

$345,000 – Medical Malpractice/Negligence

Facts

ER physicians at Kirtland Air Force Base failed to diagnose staph infection in the hip and back of a 56-year-old retired Coast Guard captain.

A retired Coast Guard captain underwent an angioplasty at UCSD Medical Center. He developed a hematoma at the catheter site in his right groin. He was discharged with the hematoma, but otherwise healthy. He then proceeded on a cross-country motorhome trip. While in New Mexico, he started to feel pain in his right groin and hip and developed a fever. He went to the emergency room at Kirtland Air Force Base five times over the course of nine days. Although he advised the physicians of his angioplasty procedure, he was diagnosed with low back pain and prostatitis. The physicians did not consider a developing infection in the hip. Approximately a week later, the captain returned to San Diego where he was diagnosed at San Diego Naval Hospital with a massive staph infection which had spread from his hip joint to his low back.

Allegations/Contentions

Plaintiff contended that the doctors at Kirtland Air Force Base emergency room failed to appropriately and timely diagnose his developing infection. Defendants contended that a hip joint and back infection are exceedingly rare complications of an angioplasty and they were not negligent.

Injuries

Massive staph infection of the right hip with near complete destruction of the hip joint space, and complete destruction of the L3-L4 disc space in the low back.

Damages

Plaintiff claimed income loss between $100,000 and $200,000. Past medical bills were covered by plaintiff’s Coast Guard retirement benefits.

Special Notes

Plaintiff demanded $550,000; defendant offered $100,000. The case settled for $345,000. The New Mexico Medical Malpractice Act, applicable to this case, placed a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages.


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