Chicago Malpractice Lawsuit Results in $32M Settlement For Amputee

A Chicago girl has will receive a settlement of $32 million after a hospital failed to diagnose that she had sepsis, which could have prevented the loss of both her arms and legs.  

Erica Norals, on behalf of her daughter, Ashanti, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the University of Chicago Medical Center following the 2011 quadruple amputation. According to a report by the ABA Journal, the settlement agreement to resolve the case was announced earlier this month.

The girl went into the hospital in May 2011, after suffering from a knee injury several days earlier. Despite the skin not being broken and no bruising, she had a fever, complained of severe pain and could not stand on her right leg. A nurse noted she had a temperature of 100 degrees, which eventually hit 104. Her leg was in severe pain and she had an elevated white blood cell count.

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The fever, pain and blood work are generally accepted as signs of a possible infection, but the hospital failed to diagnose that she was suffering from sepsis. According to allegations raised in the case, it took 24 hours before the girl was even given antibiotics, and by that point it was too late. She went into septic shock, suffering cardiac arrest and organ failure as a result of the infection.

Ultimately, Ashanti had to have both arms removed below the elbows and both legs removed below the knees due to the side effects of sepsis. The settlement money will allow her to receive lifetime care.

Sepsis kills about 200,000 Americans each year, but surveys have found that 60% of Americans were unfamiliar with the term; a number that is consistent with surveys of the rest of the world’s population. Lack of knowledge can be fatal, as septic shock strikes rapidly, and a correct diagnosis of the ailment early on can be the difference between life and death.

Sepsis occurs when the body overreacts to an infection, causing the immune system to begin damaging the body’s own tissues as well as combating foreign bacteria.

Symptoms of septic shock are often vague, including:

  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increase heart rate
  • Declining blood pressure
  • Weakness

Currently, only about 70% of patients diagnosed with septic shock walk out of U.S. hospitals alive. That is because every hour that treatment is delayed lowers the rate of survival by about 8%, yet many hospitals fail to immediately diagnose sepsis and do not begin providing appropriate treatment for four to six hours.

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