ER Staff Cleared in $3M Malpractice Suit over Child's Death

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Sep 18, 2015 4:07:00 PM


Kevin O'Connor argues that nurse Donna Newhard and physician Alberto Marin did not breach their duty of care to seven-year-old Christopher Cassion during a 2011 emergency room visit. The child died, allegedly from bacterial meningitis, eight days after being discharged from the ER. 

Fort Myers, FL—Jurors Wednesday cleared an emergency room staff of liability for the death of a child who suffered fatal brain damage from an alleged bacterial infection. Vanterpool v. Newhard, 12-CA-003311.

Nurse practitioner Donna Newhard and supervising physician Dr. Alberto Marin were found not negligent in their treatment of seven-year-old Christopher Cory Cassion during an emergency room visit in April 2011. Newhard examined Cassion at the Lehigh Regional Medical Center when the child reportedly complained of fever, neck pain, and listlessness. Although a computer-driven diagnostics and triage program recommended blood tests for the child, Newhard diagnosed Cassion with a virus and discharged him without performing the bloodwork.

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Eight days later, Cassion died because of severe brain damage allegedly caused by bacterial meningitis.

Cassion’s family sued Newhard, Marin, and their employers Emcare of Florida and Marin Salcedo Enterprises, and claimed bloodwork performed during the ER visit would have detected the bacterial infection in time to save the child.

The five-day trial focused on whether the decision not to perform bloodwork was medically appropriate.

During closings Wednesday, plaintiff's legal team requested jurors award $3 million for what it claimed was the defendants' negligence in refusing to test for the presence of a bacterial infection. David Rash, of The Law Offices of David Rash, contended Cassion showed tell-tale signs of a potential bacterial infection when he was examined by Newhard in the emergency room. "Look at the initial assessment form from Lehigh Regional: headache, neck pain, persistent high fever, in the emergency room, 103.6 (degrees). Rash said. "That's the point. You don't rule out meningitis, all other bacterial infections, and say he has a virus on this presentation (of symptoms)."

However, the defense contended Newhard’s physical examination supported her decision against bloodwork at the time. During Wednesday’s closings, Foley Mansfield's Kevin O'Connor argued Newhard's medical conclusions, based on a physical exam of the child, were more reliable than recommendations delivered by the hospital computer's patient intake program. O'Connor noted many of the recommended tests were performed four days after the emergency room visit, and four days before Cassion's death, and showed normal results. "Where do you think those cultures (performed April 6) would have been on April 2 (when Cassion was examined by Newhard)?" O'Connor asked. "This is why computers don't practice medicine."

The parties’ attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Email Arlin Crisco at

Related Information

Plaintiffs are 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.

Read more about the trial here.

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Topics: Negligence, Medical Malpractice, Florida, Vanterpool v Newhard