On November 4, 2004, plaintiff, a 76 year-old female, underwent right total knee replacement at Lutheran General Hospital. Peri-operatively and post-operatively, the plaintiff received I.V. Clindamycin as prophylactic antibiotic therapy.
On November 9, 2004, the plaintiff was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation, where the defendant doctor was assigned as her attending physician. On November 16, 2004, the plaintiff developed a fever of 101.8 degrees. The defendant doctor ordered a series of diagnostic studies and also empirically ordered Levaquin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Shortly after the telephone order, plaintiff developed intermittent episodes of diarrhea. On November 19, 2004, the defendant doctor gave a telephone order for a stool C. Diff. culture. Culture results were found to be positive for C. Diff. The plaintiff was transferred to Lutheran General Hospital.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant doctor was negligent in the following ways: (1) giving a telephone order for Levaquin on November 16, 2004 without first examining the plaintiff or transferring her to the emergency room, (2) failing to discontinue the Levaquin and failing to send the plaintiff to the emergency room on November 19, 2004 and (3) failing to timely obtain the results of the stool C. Diff. culture. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant doctor’s negligence caused a severe C. Diff. infection that resulted in an acceleration of her pre-existing Alzheimer’s dementia. As a result, the plaintiff never recovered physical and cognitive function and required permanent nursing home care.
The defense contended that, looking prospectively, the defendant doctor gave appropriate telephone orders. Specifically, the Levaquin was indicated as empiric treatment for a suspected infection while the results of diagnostic tests were pending. The defense further contended that the Levaquin received by the plaintiff could not have caused her C. Diff. infection, as the fever and diarrhea developed at or before the time the Levaquin was given. Instead, the C. Diff. infection was caused by the Clindamycin given for the knee replacement surgery. The defense further contended that plaintiff’s pre-existing Alzheimer’s Disease was rapidly progressing and would have progressed to severe dementia requiring nursing home care in approximately the same period of time, regardless of the C. Diff. infection.
After less than one hour of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant internist.