Steve Levin Settles Million-Dollar Meningitis Case

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1 Winter 2009 Levin & Perconti: Attorneys seeking justice for victims of injury and wrongful death since PARTNERS Steven Levin Co-founder in 1992, lawyer since 1975 John Perconti Co-founder in 1992, lawyer since 1982 Susan Novosad Lawyer since 1986 Jeffrey Martin Lawyer since 1982 Bryan Waldman Lawyer since 1992 ASSOCIATES Michael Bonamarte, IV Patricia Gifford John Rushing Jordan Powell Margaret Battersby Lindsay Mack EDITOR Jenna Bosco PHOTOGRAPHER Jill Carlson Representing clients who have suffered serious or catastrophic injuries Steve Levin Settles Million-Dollar Meningitis Case On March 16, 1999, Beatriz and Jesus Sahagun of Chicago noticed that their 8-month-old son, Jesus, was restless and had a fever. They took Jesus to their pediatrician s office and saw Dr. Ranjit Teji. At first, the doctor thought it was a cold or flu. She examined him and recommended we give him Tylenol, said Beatriz. Six days later, Jesus again showed signs of a fever. This time he was very pale, had a fever and was vomiting. We could tell that his neck was very stiff; he could not even move his head to eat, added Beatriz. Dr. Teji examined him again and determined it was most likely a viral infection so she prescribed an antibiotic and sent the family home. Several hours later, Jesus checked on his son in his crib. The baby was moaning and restless and Jesus realized his son was having a seizure. He alerted Beatriz who called an ambulance and when they arrived at the emergency room, the baby had a second seizure. Doctors suspected meningitis and, after performing a spinal tap, confirmed that Jesus was suffering from pneumococcal meningitis, an inflammation or infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Jesus remained in the hospital for almost five weeks. Because his doctor failed to diagnose meningitis, Jesus suffered severe functional damage and hearing loss. This type of meningitis may be treatable if caught in the early stages, but in Jesus s case, it was not detected early enough to prevent significant damage. Due to his brain damage, Jesus s doctors told his family that he would face developmental delays and require substantial medical care and educational assistance throughout his life. Jesus began a rigorous therapy schedule in the months following his diagnosis to combat the damage. The first few months were the hardest, recalled Beatriz. Our entire family was overwhelmed. Jesus entered an early intervention program that included physical, occupational, speech and auditory therapies. We were at therapy six or seven times a week; it was a lot for such a small child to go through. It was hard for everyone to adjust to this new 325 North LaSalle Street, Suite 450 Chicago, Illinois (312) FAX (312) Toll free (877) Jesus Sahagun pictured with his parents, Jesus and Beatriz, and sisters Esmeralda, Beatriz Alejandra and Angela. schedule. Thankfully, our extended family helped out with our two daughters and, looking back, I feel like the time spent in therapy really made a difference. The Sahaguns came to Levin & Perconti seeking justice for the doctor s failure to diagnose Jesus s meningitis. The signs and symptoms of meningitis were there, but the doctor failed to identify his condition and therefore delayed crucial treatments that could have helped to prevent Jesus s loss of hearing and developmental delays, said Steve Levin. As time passed, Jesus s family saw improvements. However, auditory therapy did not improve his hearing loss. At 18 months old, Jesus received a cochlear implant, a small external microphone and an implanted receiver that provides sound to someone who is profoundly hard-of-hearing. Beatriz attributes much of Jesus s progress to the device. After receiving the implant, Jesus had to undergo intensive therapies. However, the device really helps him to hear and speak to us. The implant has eased communication between Jesus and our family. continued on page 2 1

2 Jesus is now 10 years old and a fifth grader at Kinzie Elementary School in Chicago. He continues to receive speech, auditory and physical therapy on a weekly basis at his school. He recently began to read and is learning American Sign Language. We are so happy with his progress, said Beatriz. We understand he s not at his grade level, but he s trying his best. He s overcome so many obstacles to get to where he is. Steve Levin is happy to see the Sahagun family s case settled. Since Jesus was young when the harm occurred, we waited for his medical conditions to materialize so we could fully understand his suffering. It became clear that his loss of hearing and developmental delays were things he and his family would have to overcome daily. Steve added, Throughout their battle, the entire family has shown great strength, positivity and perseverance. I truly believe that Jesus s progress is a direct result of the family s drive to help him succeed. Jesus Sahagun Susan Novosad Settles Record Nursing Home Lawsuit Recently, attorney Susan Novosad settled the largest nursing home negligence case in Lake County history against Winchester House in Libertyville, IL. Susan reached a settlement of $1 million on behalf of the family of an 83-year-old woman who died after sustaining injuries at the nursing home. The Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter acknowledged that this was a record settlement. I was happy that I could help the family to receive compensation for the devastating loss of their wife, mother and grandmother, said Susan. Although the settlement cannot change what happened to my client, it led Winchester Susan Novosad, Attorney House to change their policies and procedures to prevent something like this from happening to anyone else. I commend them for that. In January 2004, our client s family recognized that her dementia was growing worse and they made the difficult decision to move her from her home to Winchester House. They knew it was time to move her into a nursing home when she began to wake up in the middle of the night and wander, according to Susan. She was no longer safe in her own home. The family felt that Winchester House could provide her with the round-the-clock care and protection that they no longer could. Along with her risk for wandering, our client s gait was growing increasingly unsteady when she walked, putting her at high risk for falls. When she was admitted to Winchester House in January 2004, the staff did not perform a routine fall-risk assessment. This assessment is a common practice that is to be completed when someone enters into residency at a nursing home. The staff performed our client s initial fall assessment several weeks after her admission and developed a generic care plan to prevent future falls. The care plan interventions included keeping pathways well-lit and clutter-free, monitoring her gait and the use of hip shields. These interventions proved sufficient at first, but from August through December 2004, our client had six falls, two of which resulted in hospitalization. She suffered a brain injury after one of these falls in September 2004 and her doctor ordered the staff to monitor her through the use of bed and wheelchair alarms. However, the alarm system was not in place or functioning properly when she fell again in December Our client suffered a hip fracture and displaced elbow fracture as result of her last fall and required surgery to treat both fractures. Upon returning to Winchester after her surgeries, her condition rapidly deteriorated and she died several days later. Her physician later testified that the falls and injuries that she sustained while under Winchester s care caused her general condition to decline and ultimately contributed to her death. In the wake of her injuries, Winchester House instituted new policies to check wheelchair and bed alarms more frequently to assure proper functioning. I hope that my client s case will help to raise awareness surrounding nursing home negligence and that other facilities will take notice, Susan noted. Winchester House had several opportunities to update and revise her care plans to address new approaches for the problem of falls, but failed to implement any positive changes until it was too late. Falls can have devastating effects on the elderly, as well as their loved ones. As people age, disease, deterioration in physical condition and an increase in medications may make people more susceptible to falls. Hip fractures are among the most common injuries in seniors and often have devastating consequences for which recovery is difficult. That is why it is important to recognize fall risks in order to prevent falls from happening in the first place. Understanding the risk factors and ensuring preventive measures are in place can help spouses, children, grandchildren and friends protect their loved ones from falls. Who is Most at Risk for Falls? People with: Stroke Dementia Walking and balance disorders History of falls in the past year Parkinson s disease Nerve damage Weakness in the legs or feet Vision loss American Academy of Neurology, Neurology, (February 5, 2008). Worried About Family or Friends Falling? New Guideline Identifies Those Most at Risk. 2

3 Steve Levin and Mike Bonamarte File Complaint Against Children s Memorial Hospital Kara Morris is like any other freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She lives in a dorm, studies late into the night and enjoys spending time with her friends. What separates Kara from others, however, is the ongoing fear and uncertainty she faces because she does not know if she has cancer. Kara grew up in Highland Park, IL with her parents, Charlene and Murray Morris, and her sister. Kara attended Highland Park High School where she served as a senior advisor and was active in lacrosse and art classes. In early September 2006, Kara, then 16, discovered a lump on the right side of her neck. Doctors performed Steve Levin, Attorney tests which revealed a tumor in Kara s thyroid and they opted to perform surgery to remove the mass. On October 11, 2006, Kara was admitted to Children s Memorial Hospital in Chicago for surgery to remove the entire tumor as well as a portion of her thyroid. After a week of waiting anxiously, Kara and Charlene went to the Children s Clinic at Glenbrook Hospital where they received the news that Children s Memorial Hospital lost the tumor and a section of Kara s thyroid. Therefore, no determination was made as to whether the tumor was cancerous. The Morris family was shocked and devastated. We could not believe that the hospital we trusted to care for our daughter lost her tumor, said Charlene. It held all of our answers, and without it, we will never know whether she has cancer. We brought this case against Children s Memorial so that other families do not have to go through what we are facing. Prior to discovering the lump, Kara led the carefree life of a teenager. She was a normal teenager who was very involved with her schoolwork, participated in a lot of activities and loved being with her friends, said Murray. After discovering the mass on her neck, Kara was forced to grow up, far too quickly. She was suddenly stricken with the stress and anxiety of possibly having cancer, fears that no teenager should have to deal with. Kara is now a freshman at the University of Michigan where she is studying Art and Design. Despite her new college life, she constantly deals with the stress and emotion of not having a diagnosis. There isn t a day that goes by when I m not thinking about it, said Kara. While I want to remain confident that everything will be okay, there is always an uncertainty because I will never get a clear answer on whether or not I have cancer. Kara undergoes ultrasounds every six months to monitor her thyroid to make sure there is no new growth or changes. In addition to stress, Kara will most likely face great difficulties obtaining individual insurance as she moves into adulthood due to her uncertain health status. Through all of the tests, she remains optimistic that her case will encourage hospitals to pay closer attention to the whereabouts of tumors and other surgically removed specimens. Attorneys Michael Bonamarte and Steve Levin of Levin & Perconti represent Kara in this case and hope to send a message to other healthcare providers. Our primary goal is to receive fair and just compensation for Kara s undue stress and anxiety, but we also would like to trigger changes in the ways that hospitals handle tumor samples, said Steve Levin. If we can receive compensation for Kara while preventing such a loss from happening again, we will be successful. Since the events took place at Children s Memorial Hospital in 2006, Kara has struggled with the stress and emotions caused by the hospital error. In the months following her surgery, Kara continued to undergo treatments and therapy on her vocal cords. During her final years of high school, Kara was forced to withdraw from some of the activities she loved because she had difficulties breathing as a result of her vocal cords being damaged. Kara is a strong girl with a bright future ahead of her, said Mike Bonamarte. Unfortunately, she will be tormented because the tumor was lost and the biopsy was never performed. The inexcusable loss of the tumor by the hospital will cause her lifelong anxiety and undue stress. Steve added, Hopefully this suit will reveal where the system broke down and how it can be corrected. Mike Bonamarte, Attorney 3

4 John Perconti Settles Medication Error Case Recently, John Perconti settled a case against Warren Barr Pavilion in Chicago for $850,000 on behalf of a client who suffered permanent cognitive deficits as a result of the nursing home s negligence. In 1999, our client was diagnosed with a type of liver disease that required a liver transplant. In 2003, he was admitted to a nursing home to receive basic daily care until a liver donor could be found and a transplant performed. Instead of alerting other staff members or a physician to her error, the nurse attempted to cover it up by not telling anyone at the nursing home what happened. This reckless cover-up led to our client s claim for punitive damages. Five hours later, our client s attending physician found him unresponsive and unable to communicate, and only then did the nurse admit to giving our client Glyburide. Our client was admitted to Warren Barr Pavilion on August 20, The following day, an as-needed nurse supervisor was asked to help care for our client due to inadequate staffing at the nursing home. The supervisor John Perconti, Attorney had never cared for a resident at Warren Barr before that day. In the past, her primary responsibility was to telephone staff members to come in when other staff members were unable to work. Since the facility was short-staffed, the nurse supervisor volunteered to help pass out morning medications. Our client was the first and only resident to whom she administered medications. However, due to her unfamiliarity with the residents needs, the nurse carelessly gave our client his roommate s medications, including Glyburide. Glyburide is a medication used to treat type 2 diabetes, a condition our client did not have. The Glyburide sent our client s blood sugar levels plummeting to the point that he became unresponsive and went into a hypoglycemic coma. Our client s doctor immediately tried to reverse the effects of the Glyburide but had little success. He was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago where he was hospitalized for five days. Unfortunately, our client suffered permanent cognitive deficits as a result of the nurse s conduct. These deficits include memory loss, loss of concentration, and the loss of his ability to manage his financial affairs. This case is a clear example of why it is crucial that nursing homes and their employees must follow the facilities medication administration procedures, said John Perconti. If the nurse had routinely verified who the patient was and the medications to be given, this serious incident would have been avoided. All she had to do was simply check the patient s identification bracelet and she would have caught the error. New Faces Around the Office Levin & Perconti is pleased to welcome three new attorneys to our litigation team! Bryan Waldman was hired in November as a litigation partner. Prior to coming to Levin & Perconti, he was a partner at a leading personal injury law firm in Lansing, MI. Bryan has achieved a number of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for his clients, including a record medical negligence wrongful death verdict of $10.68 million. In addition to substantial results, Bryan has received recognition for his work from both clients and peers. He served as president of the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association in He also received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was selected as one of the Best Lawyers in America and a Michigan SuperLawyer. Bryan graduated from Michigan State University and received his law degree from Wayne State University Law School in Margaret Battersby was hired in November as an associate. Margaret had been a law clerk at Levin & Perconti since 2005 and graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law in June During law school, she was a member of the Chicago-Kent Moot Court Honors Society. She was also actively involved in the American Constitution Society and served as the chapter president in 2006 and Margaret earned her undergraduate business degree at the University of Michigan, graduating with University Honors. Lindsay Mack was hired in December as an associate after working as a law clerk while in law school. She received her law degree in June 2008 from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. In law school, Lindsay participated in the Charles Evan Hughes Moot Court Competition, ranking in the top 10 percent of participants. She was also selected as a Top 5 Advocate in her Intensive Trial Advocacy Course and was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta International Legal Fraternity. Lindsay graduated from the University of Texas in 2005 with highest University Honors. Pictured from left to right: Margaret Battersby, Bryan Waldman & Lindsay Mack 4

5 Recently Filed Cases Recent Settlements Medical Malpractice Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect S vs. University of Chicago Hospital The hospital failed to treat and replace a 21-year-old patient s malfunctioning brain shunt in a timely manner. As a result, the patient suffered a brainstem herniation that lead to severe and irreversible brain damage. H vs. Glencrest Nursing Home ($350,000.00) The nursing home failed to assess the plaintiff s risk for pressure ulcers or implement care to prevent pressure ulcers. As a result, the plaintiff developed Stage 4 pressure ulcers that contributed to his death. C for VD vs. Louis Weiss Memorial Hospital A 19-year-old patient was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of pneumonia. At the hospital, his respiratory condition was not properly monitored, causing deprivation of oxygen to his brain, permanent brain damage and death. L for L vs. Halsted Terrace ($390,000.00) A nursing home resident suffered internal bleeding and the nursing home failed to diagnose or address the symptoms until it was too late. The resident died 18 hours later as a result of this negligence. R vs. MacNeal Hospital The hospital neglected to assess and institute a plan of care to prevent pressure ulcers from forming. The 65-year-old patient developed serious pressure ulcers that ultimately led to her death. M vs. Halsted Terrace ($450,000.00) The nursing home failed to monitor a resident s condition and provide proper care to prevent pressure ulcers. The resident developed several pressure ulcers that became infected. As a result, the plaintiff s leg required below-the-knee amputation and her condition rapidly deteriorated. She died from the injuries directly related to the pressure ulcers. Brain Injury J for P vs. Carle Clinic The hospital failed to monitor a 20-month-old girl who was admitted for respiratory therapy. Hospital staff did not take timely action when a mucus plug blocked her airway. The unrecognized mucus plug cut off oxygen to her brain and she died as a result of severe brain damage several days later. Birth Injury Motor Vehicle K vs. Gant, Inc. et al. ($250, $30,000.00) A cab driver made an illegal U-turn and broadsided the plaintiff who was driving a motorcycle. The plaintiff now suffers from paraplegia. The case settled for insurance limits as well as personal monies of the cab company. JC vs. Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center The hospital failed to diagnose a mother s placental abruption, a condition where the placenta detaches from the uterine wall, and failed to timely perform a cesarean section to deliver her baby. The baby suffered severe brain damage and cerebral palsy as a result of this negligence. Nursing Home Abuse/Neglect C vs. Boulevard Care A nursing home resident bled to death after dislodging his dialysis catheter. The nursing home staff failed to help him change into his pajamas so he attempted to change himself when the dislodgement occurred. B vs. Hampton Plaza The nursing home failed to protect a nursing home resident from falling and then failed to assess a knee fracture for 12 hours. The knee became infected and as a result, required amputation of the leg. Slip & Fall Accidents G for WM vs. Morelli et al. A woman fell into a hole in a parking lot owned by the defendant. She suffered a hip fracture and had to live in a nursing home for six months as a result. The defendant knew that the hole was there, but failed to fix it before the accident. ADVERTISING MATERIAL DISCLAIMER: This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for advertising and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. 5 We have four new blogs! Our blogs are updated daily, so we invite you to visit them often to view the newest information in these practice areas. Birth Injuries: chicagobirthinjurylawyerblog.com Brain Injuries: chicagobraininjurylawyerblog.com Car Accidents: chicagocaraccidentlawyerblog.com Truck Accidents: illinoistruckaccidentlawyerblog.com Remember to visit our other blogs: nursinghomelaw.com illinoisinjurylawyerblog.com medmalillinois.com

6 325 North LaSalle Street, Suite 450 Chicago, Illinois Phone: (312) Seeking justice for victims of injury and wrongful death since Levin & Perconti Attorney News On October 11, 2008, Michael Bonamarte spoke at the Sons of Norway Torske Club s Fall Dinner Meeting in Des Plaines. Mike spoke to the group about Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect. Steven M. Levin spoke on November 7, 2008 at the Chicagoland Healthcare Risk Management Society s 2008 Law Day, Day of Discovery. The all-day event took place in The Metropolitan Club in the Sears Tower Oak Room and featured a number of speakers from the legal and healthcare fields. During his session, Steve provided an in-depth look at the plaintiff s perspective of the discovery process. Margaret Battersby was recently named to the board of directors of the American Constitutional Society s Chicago Chapter. She will serve as the Director of Firm Outreach for the organization. Steven Levin & Michael Bonamarte published a chapter in the book 2008 Advising Elderly Clients and Their Families titled Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Actions Under the Nursing Home Care Act. Jeff Martin was named as one of Illinois 2009 Leading Lawyers by his peers, an honor given to less than 5 percent of all practicing attorneys in Illinois. Steven Levin and John Perconti were also named as 2009 Leading Lawyers, a distinction that both have received in previous years. On January 28, 2009, Margaret Battersby introduced Professor Steven Heyman at the American Constitutional Society Chicago Chapter s discussion on his book, Free Speech and Human Dignity. Margaret was a former student of Professor Heyman, who teaches Constitutional Law and First Amendment classes at Chicago Kent College of Law. Susan Novosad, Patricia Gifford, Margaret Battersby and Lindsay Mack attended the Women s Bar Association of Illinois luncheon on General Motion Practice Both Sides of the Bench on February 6, Levin & Perconti is the premier sponsor for the Alzheimer s Association Greater Illinois Chapter s seventh annual wine and beer tasting event, A Toast to Remember. The event will be held on Thursday, March 19, 2009 at the River East Art Center in Chicago. The Premier Wine Tasting Lounge begins at 5:00 p.m. upstairs and the wine and beer tasting begins at 6:00 p.m. downstairs. Event ends at 9:00 p.m. Visit to purchase tickets. 6

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