Pediatric Malpractice Claims in Maryland

Thankfully, there are not a lot of pediatric malpractice cases. Only psychiatrists are less likely to be sued than pediatricians. However, there is a lot on the line when a child is getting medical treatment. This is particularly true when the child is very young. Nearly 50% of malpractice lawsuits against pediatricians are in the first month of the child's life.

Types of Pediatric Malpractice

Unfortunately, there are some common types of pediatric malpractice claims. These include meningitis, appendicitis, medication errors, brain injury, and diagnosing errors.

Meningitis is the leading source of pediatric malpractice claims, as it can be very difficult to diagnose in a pediatric setting. An infant with early symptoms of meningitis may go to the hospital, and if the physician or doctor does not recognize the symptoms and fails to make the diagnosis at the initial stage, it can cause irreversible harm. With meningitis, an infant's health deteriorates very quickly. Approximately 44% of meningitis malpractice lawsuits against pediatricians end in a settlement or verdict.

Appendicitis can be another common source of pediatric malpractice claims, especially for female patients. The symptoms of appendicitis can also lead a doctor to believe a female patient has either pelvic inflammatory disease or a urinary tract infection, leading to a misdiagnosis of appendicitis. Approximately 32% of appendicitis related malpractice lawsuits against pediatricians end in a settlement or verdict.

Medication errors can also be common in pediatric settings. There are four possible times when a medication error can occur: ordering of the medication, administration of the medication, transcription, and dispensing of the medication. The ordering of and administration of the medication are the leading sources of a mistake in medication error cases.

Other common pediatric malpractice cases involve oxygen deprivation, pneumonia, and (usually undiagnosed) respiratory problems.


Here is a look at some recent verdicts and settlements in cases involving pediatricians and pediatric malpractice.  There are not many cases involving children in Maryland because these are cases that doctors would prefer to settle when the claim appears to be meritorious. You can find sample Maryland pediatric lawsuits here and here.

These give a good idea of the types of cases that lead to successful outcomes. It also gives you some idea in general terms of the settlement and verdict ranges in these cases. Can you use these cases to predict a settlement or verdict in your case? Absolutely not. There are too many variables at play for there to be a predictive value of seemingly similar claims.

Verdicts and Settlements
  • 2018,  New York: $1, 500,000 Verdict:  A pediatrician was treating a high school student with a facial antibiotic Bactrim.  Plaintiff claimed that the pediatrician negligently continued her on the Bactrim despite indications of adverse side effects.  Plaintiff claimed that she suffered severe facial rash and mucous membrane erosion as a result.  The pediatrician refused to settled and dispute the plaintiff’s damages.  The case went to trial in Queens County and the jury awarded $1.5 million.
  • 2017, Massachusetts: $7,000,000 Settlement:  This was a birth injury/post-delivery care case filed against several defendants including the obstetrician and pediatrician at the hospital.  The plaintiff alleged that the obstetrician was negligent in failing to perform an emergency c-section in response to fetal distress.  The pediatrician was allegedly negligent in failing to provide appropriate neonatal care and failing to properly intubate the baby.  The baby suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury.  The case settled for $7.7 million.
  • 2017, Illinois 2017: $48,000,000 Verdict: The defendant pediatrician was sued for wrongful death after failing to properly exam and report signs of child-abuse in an 8-year-old girl.  Specifically, the pediatrician was accused of negligence in failing to report numerous signs that his patient was being subject to physical and sexual abuse.  Soon after the pediatrician’s examination, the girl was killed by her abusive father.  The lawsuit alleged that if the pediatrician had properly reported the evidence of abuse, the girl would have been removed from the home before she was killed.  The jury in Chicago awarded the plaintiff’s $48 million in damages. (They should have awarded more, right?) 
  • 2017, Louisiana: $347,000 Verdict: An emergency care pediatrician is accused of negligence for initial misdiagnosing a 7-year old with a stomach virus and sending her home.  She was back in the hospital soon after at which time she was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix requiring emergency surgery. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant pediatrician should have done more extensive imaging tests when the girl first came to the hospital.  The pediatrician contended that the tests were not warranted at the time and that he met the applicable standard of care.  The case went to trial in Lafayette Parish and the jury awarded plaintiffs $347,000 in damages.
  • Maine, 2017: $1,900,000 Settlement:  Pediatricians at a clinic operated by the federal government were sued for negligently failing to diagnose patient’s acute leukemia.  Instead, pediatricians at clinic diagnosed her with constipated resulting in a delay in proper diagnosis and treatment. The case was settled for $1.9 million. 
  • Pennsylvania, 2017: $2,100,000 Arbitration Award: Defendant pediatricians were accused of negligence in failing to perform routine eye examinations on a patient, resulting in a delay in diagnosis of patients cancer of the eye (retinoblastoma).  The 9-month delay in diagnosis allegedly resulted in blindness and surgical removal of the child’s right eye which plaintiff’s claimed could have been avoided had the eye examination been performed.  The case went to arbitration and the arbitrator awarded plaintiffs $2.1 million.   
  • 2016, Alabama: $10,000,000 Verdict. A three-month-old infant arrives at the ER with a fever and other symptoms of a bacterial infection. The physicians observe him, and he is discharged without having any tests done. His parents bring him back the next day as his symptoms are getting worse. He is admitted again, but the hospital still does not perform any tests, and the pediatrician admitting the child to the ER does not examine him for 18 hours. He is discharged without antibiotics a few days later. The day following his second discharge, he is taken to his family practitioner who performs a lumbar puncture, which shows severe bacterial meningitis. Due to the negligence in failing to timely diagnose meningitis, the child suffers permanent brain injuries, hearing and visual impairments, hydrocephalus, and a seizure disorder. The doctors argue that meningitis developed after he was discharged from the hospital.  That argument falls flat. After a five-week trial, a jury awards the infant $10,000,000.
  • 2016, New York: $5,000,000 Settlement. An 18-month-old arrives at the hospital after a respiratory infection and suspected seizure activity. A CAT scan is done and appears normal. During a neurology consult, a lumbar puncture is done, which comes back negative for bacterial infection but positive for red blood cells. The neurologists diagnose her with a common virus for children and fever-related seizure activity. While she is in the hospital a few days later, her seizure activity increases despite the fact that her fever is under control. By day four, she has deteriorated quickly, and another neurological consult is done, and a CAT scan reveals significant brain tissue changes. She is transferred to NYU, where she is diagnosed with herpes simplex encephalitis, and given Acyclovir. Her parents bring a claim, arguing that the hospital staff should have recognized the symptoms earlier due to the seizure activity continuing and the lumbar puncture results showing of red blood cells. Prior to trial the, parties settle for $5,000,000.
  • 2015, Pennsylvania: $250,000 Settlement. A minor patient who was born at 27 weeks with perinatal problems goes to his doctor with a fever. The doctor examines him and diagnoses him with the early onset of a virus, and sends her home. A few days later, the boy is not improving and is now vomiting. His parents bring him to the hospital. He is diagnosed with gastroenteritis and is admitted, however overnight his condition deteriorates. He starts having trouble breathing, and it is discovered that blood work from the day before showed pneumonia infiltrates. He is transferred to a children's hospital, where he is diagnosed with meningitis and pneumococcal bacteremia. As a result of the delay in the diagnosis and treatment, he suffers bilateral hearing loss. The doctor argues that the infection developed after the virus infection, and the case settles for $250,000. Causation is likely a part of the reason this case settled for such a low amount.  A child born at 27 weeks will often have problems and linking the hearing loss to the negligence in a child that likely has a lot of problems can be a challenge. 
  • 2015, New York: $6,500,000 Settlement. Over a two-year period, a minor's mother brings her for five well-patient physical exams. At each appointment, the mom reports excessive thirst and frequent urination compared to her other children. There are also abnormalities in the child's growth parameters. Two and a half years later, the child goes to the office, complaining of a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and lethargy. She is sent to the emergency room, where she is diagnosed with obstructive hydrocephalus and a benign brain tumor is found. The parents of the patient bring a claim, alleging that if the child was referred to an endocrinologist or neurologist earlier, there would have been a timely diagnosis of the craniopharyngioma.  However, since it was not diagnosed for over two years, it is significantly harder to remove the tumor. The doctors claim that the mother did not advise them of her thoughts about the abnormal urination habits and that there were issues with the plaintiff's claims about causation as it was unlikely that the damage would have been minimized by an earlier diagnosis. The parties settled before trial for $6,500,000.
  • 2015, Massachusetts:$1,800,000 Settlement. A minor patient has five office visits at her pediatrician's office, during which despite having a head circumference measurement above the 95 percentile mark, she is not diagnosed with issues concerning her head or brain. During a trip to the ER, she is diagnosed with hydrocephalus and is told she has permanent brain damage as a result of the delay in diagnosis. The doctors argue that the brain damage was genetic and not related, but settled the case for $1,800,000.
  • 2015, Texas:$200,000 Settlement. Just after birth, a minor boy has a renal ultrasound, showing enlarged posterior urethral valves. However, this finding is never communicated to the boy's parents, and therefore no action is taken to correct this. For four years, he suffers from many urinary tract infections and digestive issues that are related to having enlarged kidneys. His parents bring a claim alleging improper medical care and the failure to take measure to correct the minor boy's condition, and the parties settle for $200,000.
  • 2015, California: $10,200,000 Verdict. A 15-year-old boy is a resident at a nursing home for six years as he was born severely premature and suffers from cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. One day, he is found unresponsive after experiencing a seizure. His parents claim that the facility did not administer his seizure medication and that the staff did not make any attempt to resuscitate him, and were therefore responsible for his death. The defendants argue that the teenager died due to a breakthrough seizure as part of a sudden unexplained death in epilepsy syndrome and that his seizure medication was given to him. After eight weeks of trial, a jury awards the plaintiff's parents $5,700,000 in actual damages and $4,500,000 in punitive damages.
  • 2015, New Jersey:$10,000,000 Settlement. A fifteen month old infant arrives at the hospital with pneumonia. The nurse tries to place an endotracheal tube three times, and after third attempt, did not learn that the tube was placed in the esophagus until after the child suffers brain damage. As a result, the infant suffers a severe anoxic insult causing brain damage. The child needs 24-hour care for the rest of his life. The case settles quickly after the claim is filed, for $10,000,000.
  • 2015, Pennsylvania:$6,250,000 Verdict. A mom brings her two-year-old daughter to the hospital for severe stomach pain and vomiting after she has no bowel movements for two days. The doctors prescribe Zofran, and discharge her, telling her to follow-up with her family doctor. However, that same day, she has increased pain and vomiting, so she returns to the hospital. Several pediatric doctors diagnose her with gastroparesis as a result of a twisted stomach/bowel obstruction. She is transferred to a different hospital, has several diagnostic tests done, and it is confirmed that she is suffering from malrotation of the stomach. After this diagnosis, she is still treated for a bowel obstruction, and given discharge instructions telling her to follow up with her family doctor. She is seen by her family doctor three times after, without a further medical evaluation offered. A few months later, she begins to have severe pain and vomiting again, and her mom calls 911. She is informed by the doctor that an ER trip was not necessary, and to watch her daughter and bring her to hospital if needed. The following morning, after no change, the mother calls an ambulance again. When they arrive at the hospital, the staff is told of a similar hospital trip a few months prior, but the child stops breathing and dies before treatment is started. Her parents file a claim, alleging that all the doctor's involved failed to timely and adequately respond to their daughters symptoms and diagnosis. A jury awards them $3,700,000 in wrongful death damages and $2,055,000 in survival damages.
  • 2015, Louisiana: $8,000,000 Verdict. An eight-year-old girl goes to her pediatrician, complaining of a fever, sore throat, coughing, and sneezing, consistent with the flu. She is sent home with medicine to relieve her cold-like symptoms and an antibiotic. She is then brought to the ER, where she is diagnosed with H1N1 virus, but no Tamiflu or anti-viral medication is prescribed. Her condition worsens, and she goes to a third physician, who also does not prescribe anti-viral medication. The girl is finally admitted to the hospital and receives the anti-viral medication, but it is too late as she has suffered cardiopulmonary arrest from the infection and died. After trial, a jury awards $3,000,000 to her mother for her survival action, $2,000,000 for grief/suffering, and $3,000,000 for loss of enjoyment of life.
  • 2015, Massachusetts:$3,000,000 Settlement. After a car accident, a 13-year-old girl is transferred to defendant's hospital from a smaller hospital, with CT images showing a spleen laceration and fluid. This is confirmed by the ER physician and pediatric surgeon. Her health starts to deteriorate, as she began demonstrating tachycardia, tachypnea, low urine output, and abdominal pain. The doctors do not take any more imaging. Her condition worsens, until she is finally seen by the chief trauma surgeon who orders immediate exploratory surgery to figure out the cause of her illness. While being prepped for surgery, she goes into cardiac arrest and is resuscitated. During surgery, the doctors find that she is suffering from necrotic bowel, which is identified as a lack of blood flow from the injury to her mesenteric artery, which is visible on the CT imaging that she arrived at that hospital with. The surgery ends early due to the patient being unstable, and she dies in the ICU. Her parents brings a claim, alleging that the physicians failed to timely diagnose and treat their daughter, resulting in undiagnosed sepsis. The parties settled for $3,000,000 after mediation.
  • 2014, Arizona:$1,000,000 Settlement. A 14-year-old boy arrives at the hospital with severe abdominal pain and vomiting. He is admitted for observation. He is diagnosed with a small bowel obstruction, but is not appropriately transferred to a hospital that is licensed to care for pediatric patients. During transfer by helicopter, his small bowel ruptures. He and his parents bring suit, alleging that the doctors were negligent in failing to diagnose and treat the serious medical condition of the patient. The case settled for $1,000,000.
  • Child During Delivery 2014, Massachusetts: $4,650,000 Settlement. A minor is at the ER, complaining of lethargy, incontinence, right leg pain, and is mostly unresponsive. The ER physicians diagnose her with tachycardia, tachypnea, and an altered medical status, and admit her for observation. They diagnose her with an infection, trauma, or accidental overdose. However, her condition worsens, and she is moved from the pediatric floor to the pediatric ICU, without any immediate administration of antibiotics. She codes for 15 minutes, and testing shows she is suffering from metabolic and respiratory acidosis and an anoxic brain injury. She sustains permanent brain injury, allegedly as a result of a failure to diagnose sepsis as a result of a MRSA infection. The parties settle for $4,650,000 shortly after suit is filed.
  • 2013, Prince George's County, Maryland: $9,500,000 Verdict. A two-week-old female is at the ER when the nurse fails to report her abnormal blood culture results to the physician. The child develops cerebral palsy, moderate mental retardation, and a seizure disorder when her Group B Streptococcus sepsis and meningitis goes without a diagnosis for some time. She brings a claim, alleging that the nurse failed to report the results to her pediatrician and for the delay in diagnosis. A jury awards the girl $5,000,000 in future medical expenses, $1,500,000 in future lost earnings, and $3,000,000 for non-economic damages.
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