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P.G. jury awards $9.5M in med-mal case

A Prince George’s County jury has awarded $9.5 million in damages to the family of a child who developed cerebral palsy as an infant after signs of an infection were not immediately treated by emergency room personnel.

By the time Desirae Gregg was treated, two days after first going to Laurel Regional Hospital’s emergency room in December 2005, she was suffering from meningitis and seizures, according to the complaint.

The verdict includes $5 million for future medical expenses, $1.5 million in lost earnings and $3 million in noneconomic damages, which is subject to a cap of $650,000 under Maryland law.

The verdict was against Maryland Provo-I Medical Services Inc., which provided emergency care services at the hospital, and Renae Ngati, an emergency room nurse.

John R. Penhallegon, a lawyer for Maryland Provo-I, said he plans to file post-trial motions and appeal the verdict if necessary.

“The verdict was against the weight of evidence and [the case] should not have gone to the jury,” said Penhallegon, a principal with Cornblatt, Bennett, Penhallegon & Roberson P.A. in Towson. “There was no sufficient evidence of any departures from the standard of care by Maryland Provo-I.”

The jury reached its verdict Friday after eight hours of deliberation in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.

The parents, Derrick and Yalonda Gregg, brought Desirae, their 2-week-old daughter, to the emergency room late on Dec. 4, 2005, after she missed several feedings and was short of breath, according to the complaint. Tests were ordered by an emergency room physician and the on-call pediatric doctor was brought in for a consultation, according to the complaint.

Desirae exhibited signs of a neonatal infection that the pediatric doctor was not made aware of, according to the complaint. The ER sent the Greggs home after performing tests and told them to take Desirae to her pediatrician a few days later, the complaint said.

The next morning, the results of the blood test came back positive for bacteria; however, the Greggs were not notified at the time, the Greggs alleged.

Instead, they weren’t called until Dec. 6, nearly six hours after the infection was identified as Group B streptococcus, the complaint said. Group B strep can result in meningitis in infants.

Giles H. Manley, a lawyer for the Greggs, said the Dec. 5 lab results are known as a “critical lab value,” meaning the problem had to be addressed quickly or else there was the potential for serious harm.

“The fact the result was available in the emergency department on Dec. 5 at 9:20 in the morning and it was more than 30 hours later before they acted on it was a fact that no person could find acceptable,” said Manley, of Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC in Pikesville.

Ngati, the nurse, represented herself because the nursing agency she worked for had gone bankrupt, according to Manley. Prince George’s County Circuit Judge John P. Davey ruled Ngati failed to comply with the Maryland Rules and could not put on a case for negligence, according to Manley.

In her testimony, Ngati said that, in other hospitals, she would have listed test results in a log book doctors review, but at Laurel Regional, only doctors could write in the log book, according to Manley.

Ngati testified she remembered “having concerns” for Desirae, according to Manley, and her practice had been to notify doctors of any problems.

“I think the jury believed she had told doctors [about Desirae] before she left the ER,” said Manley.

Manley said his clients were “ecstatic” when the verdict was announced at the end of the 11-day trial, hours before Desirae turned 8 years old.

“It was a long, drawn-out, three-week trial where they had to relive the entire ordeal,” he said.

GREGG V. KOON

Court:

Prince George’s County Court

Case No.:

CAL11-08836

Judge:

John P. Davey

Outcome:

Verdict for $9,500,000 — $5 million for future medical expenses; $3 million for noneconomic damages (subject to $650,000 cap); $1.5 million for lost earnings

Dates:

Incident: Dec. 4, 2005

Suit filed: March 30, 2011

Verdict: Nov. 22, 2013

Plaintiffs’ Attorney:

Giles H. Manley and Jason B. Penn of Janet, Jenner & Suggs LLC in Pikesville

Defendant’s Attorney:

John R. Penhallegon of Cornblatt, Bennett, Penhallegon & Roberson P.A. in Towson.

Count:

Negligence