David Rash tells jurors that Christopher Cassion could have been saved if his bacterial infection had been detected earlier. Cassion's mother, Cherline Vanterpool, represented by Rash, is suing nurse practitioner Donna Newhard and supervising physician Alberto Marin for failing to perform computer-recommended bloodwork, which Rash argues led to the child's death. Watch the trial.
Fort Myers, FL—An emergency room decision not to perform computer-recommended blood tests on a seven-year-old patient, and the role it played in the child's death, took center stage as trial began Wednesday in a Florida mother's suit against the ER staff. Vanterpool v. Newhard, 12-CA-003311.
Christopher Cory Cassion died following severe, infection-related brain damage April 10, 2011, eight days after Lehigh Regional Medical Center emergency room staff, including nurse practitioner Donna Newhard, diagnosed him with a virus and discharged him. Cassion's family claims nurse practitioner Newhard failed to discover Cassion had a bacterial infection that turned into fatal meningitis because Newhard refused to order bloodwork recommended by a computer-driven dianostics program the ER used.
In Wednesday's openings, plaintiff's attorney, David Rash, told jurors evidence would show Newhard's failure to order the bloodwork was a fatal violation of accepted standards of care. “The simple truth is, you must test rather than guess,” Rash said.
However, the defense argued that Newhard made a medically-educated decision not to order bloodwork for Cassion after her physical examination of the child. “The first question you’ll have to ask yourselves is, in this community, who or what is going to make medical decisions, and upon what basis,” Foley Mansfield’s Kevin O’Connor told jurors Wednesday. "(Newhard) looked at the child’s charts, (did) a through assessment. . . and entered what she believed were the appropriate tests, which our expert absolutely agrees with.”
O’Connor argued that the computer program’s recommendations were based only on the facts that Cassion was more than three months old and had a fever higher than 100.4 degrees. “How many people in Fort Myers, you will ask yourselves, does that cover who have a cold?” O’Connor said. “99.9% of the population.”
Rash countered that the child's high fever, neck pain, and listlessness supported, rather than undercut, the computer program’s recommendation for blood tests, which would have revealed Cassion’s bacterial infection in time to save him.
“Had Christopher been given antibitoics on April 2, he would not have died.” Rash said.
Trial in the case is expected to continue into next week.
The parties’ attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
Email Arlin Crisco at [email protected].
Cherline Vanterpool is represented by David Rash, of The Law Offices of David Rash. Donna Newhard and Dr. Alberto Marin are represented by Foley Mansfield's Kevin O'Connor.
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