Mr. Bliley went to Hamot on December 31, 2007 complaining that he was having difficulty speaking. Diagnostic scans revealed lesions in his brain but the Hamot physicians who treated him wrongly assumed that these lesions were cancer. In fact, Mr. Bliley was suffering from a destructive infection that was left untreated and caused extensive permanent damage that could have been avoided had he been given antibiotics.
The jury’s verdict in the brain infection misdiagnosis case included $1.275 million for future medical costs; $2 million in non-economic damages, including pain and suffering; $250,000 for lost future earnings; and $24,000 for past lost earnings.
Prior to his brain injury, Mr. Bliley had worked professionally as a pianist, including work as an accompanist for the Mercyhurst College ballet program. His brain injury impairs his ability to speak and to comprehend spoken words, written words, music, math and entertainment. He speaks in disjointed, fragmented sentences and is required to carry a card with him to explain to others that he is neither drunk nor disabled.
One of the defendant physicians in the Erie medical malpractice case, pulmonologist Jeffrey McGovern, settled before trial with Mr. Bliley for $500,000. The jury did not find the other individual physicians liable, including neurologist Blake Hoppe and oncologist Narinder Malhotra.
The case involved the failure of doctors to follow the rule of differential diagnosis, which requires doctors to rule out reasonable harmful possibilities before assuming that the problem is something else less immediately dangerous. In this case, Mr. Bliley’s brain infection was assumed to be cancer without steps being taken to rule out infection. As a result, Mr. Bliley was given steroids, which worsened the infection, and told to follow up with an oncologist.
Later biopsies suggested that Mr. Bliley did not have cancer but the results were not provided to at least some of the treating physicians.
Mr. Bliley’s infection was finally revealed on January 12 when he woke, unable to speak coherently and wracked by vomiting. Brain scans showed that the lesions had quadrupled in size. An infectious disease expert was consulted and the infection was identified, unfortunately after it had already destroyed large areas of his brain.
Congratulations to plaintiff counsel Deborah Maliver who is reported to have done a wonderful job on behalf of the plaintiffs. Our hopes are that the jury’s verdict offers some comfort to Mr. Bliley and his wife.
As Erie medical malpractice lawyers, we know how long and difficult these cases can be for the patients who have been injured through no fault of their own. It is an injury all its own that the responsible hospital denies and delays for years, forcing someone with profound brain damage to fight to the very end for justice. We’re pleased that the jury in this case saw the truth and had the courage to do the right thing.