Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse, Death of Minor Patient Prompts $48M Award

May 29, 2018 | Physician Practice News

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​A jury in Illinois awarded $48 million to a plaintiff, concluding that a provider negligently failed to treat and report signs of child abuse in a pediatric patient who was later found dead in her grandmother's apartment, according to a report from the May 2018 Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts (subscription required). In 2012, the father received custody of the eight-year-old child after a dispute between the child's parents involving visitation rights and allegations that her mother was homeless. The child's father, who was disabled and confined to a wheelchair, lived with his mother. During their visits throughout the following months, the child's mother and maternal grandfather noticed physical and behavioral changes in the child, including weight loss. In June 2013, the state department of Children and Family Services ordered that the child undergo a physical examination to investigate an allegation of abuse. The defendant physician, a board-certified child abuse pediatrician, did not find evidence of sexual trauma or molestation. The physician questioned the mother about a loop-shaped mark found on the child's buttocks, but he took no further action. The plaintiff, the child's maternal grandfather representing the child's estate, argued that the loop-shaped mark was most likely caused by an object that bends, such as a cord or belt, and is a common sign of abuse. Three weeks later, the child was found dead with several bruises, cuts, burns, scars, and ligature marks on her wrists and ankles. An autopsy found that the child died from strangulation and blunt-force head trauma, and her death was determined to be a homicide.

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