CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Nick Rowley, left, and defense attorney Erik Bergeland, right, delivering their opening statements
Des Moines, IA - An Iowa state court jury heard opening statements Tuesday in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a man claiming failure to diagnose a serious meningitis infection left him with permanent brain damage.
Plaintiff Joseph Dudley sued UnityPoint Health in 2017 after a physician’s assistant in an urgent care clinic diagnosed him with the flu and sent him home despite a rapidly developing fever of 103.6 degrees and extreme disorientation.
His attorney, Nick Rowley of Trial Lawyers for Justice, told the Polk County jury he would seek $25 million in damages at the end of the trial, but an attorney for UnityPoint argued the treatment Dudley received met the standard of care based on the symptoms he initially presented with at the urgent care.
The full trial is being webcast gavel-to-gavel by CVN. Subscribers to CVN’s online trial video library get unlimited live and on-demand access to the full proceedings, along with hundreds of other trials featuring top plaintiff and defense attorneys from across the country.
Rowley told jurors that Dudley, in his mid-40’s at the time, became suddenly stricken with a high fever and weakness in 2017. He said his wife brought him to an urgent care run by UnityPoint, which operates a number of clinics and hospitals in the midwest, and that he arrived just before closing time.
“Being treated at the end of a shift does not mean you receive a lower standard of care,” Rowley told the jury.
Rowley explained that Dudley was so disoriented he had to be physically restrained while clinic staff attempted to administer nasal swabs. He detailed how a medical assistant had to use a belt to place Dudley in a wheelchair to get out to his car when he was eventually discharged that evening.
The physician’s assistant managing the clinic, Melanie Choos, diagnosed Dudley with the flu and told him to take anti-flu medication and return for a follow-up visit. However his condition rapidly deteriorated, and he soon presented in the emergency room with acute meningitis.
Rowley said Dudley had to be placed into a medically induced coma and suffered a number of cerebral infarctions, and that while he has struggled to achieve a partial recovery allowing him to return to work, that the damage to his brain will worsen as Dudley grows older and increasingly impact his quality of life.
Representing UnityPoint, attorney Erik Bergeland of the Finley Law Firm told jurors that while the defense does not dispute Dudley had meningitis, that the evidence would show the treatment he received in the urgent care was consistent with his symptoms.
Specifically, Bergeland said Dudley did not complain of a headache or neck pain, two symptoms that he stressed were nearly always present in cases of acute bacterial meningitis.
He agreed with the plaintiff that the meningitis did leave Dudley with brain damage, but he stressed that it was reasonable to diagnose him with the flu following his initial examination at the urgent care due to his lack of hallmark meningitis symptoms.
The trial is scheduled to take roughly a week to complete, and CVN's gavel-to-gavel coverage will continue for the duration of the proceedings.
The case is captioned Joseph Dudley, et al. v. Central Iowa Hospital Corp, et al., case number 05771 LACL138335 in Iowa’s 5th Judicial District in Polk County.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org