December 27, 2017, PNLR E-Newsletter

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Failure to diagnose sepsis

photo of microscopic view of blood

The plaintiff alleged that a nurse practitioner should have admitted a postpartum patient in light of her symptoms and blood work that showed an abnormally low platelet count and an elevated white blood cell count. Suit also claimed the nurse practitioner should have consulted with a physician. The jury awarded $20.6 million. Bermingham v. Eid.

Nicole Bermingham, 30, experienced significant vaginal tearing during the birth of her son. Three days later, when she experienced chills, nausea, fever, and worsening vaginal pain, she went to a hospital emergency room, where nurse practitioner Patricia Eid ordered blood tests. The tests showed an abnormally low platelet count and an elevated white blood cell count, with left shift and bandemia. Eid diagnosed a urinary tract infection, prescribed an antibiotic, and sent Bermingham home.

That afternoon, Bermingham lost consciousness. She was transferred back to the hospital, where she was diagnosed as having severe sepsis. Despite intervention, including a hysterectomy, Bermingham died. She had been a physician’s assistant earning $100,000 annually and is survived by her husband and their child.

Bermingham’s husband, on behalf of her estate, sued the company that contracted with the hospital to staff the emergency room, alleging liability for Eid’s failure to diagnose and treat sepsis. Suit claimed that Eid should have admitted Bermingham in light of her symptoms and the lab work and should have consulted with a physician about her case.

The jury awarded $20.6 million.

Citation: Bermingham v. Eid, No. 27-CV-16-1269 (Minn. Dist. Ct. Hennepin Cnty. Aug. 28, 2017).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Elizabeth Fors and Chris Messerly, both of Minneapolis.

Plaintiff expert: Harold Wiesenfeld, obstetrics, Pittsburgh.

Defense expert: David Eschenbach, obstetrics, Seattle.