Medical Malpractice Case Report: $1,278,000 for failure to diagnose mononucleosis resulting in death

Firm Partners John F. Eisberg and Kathleen Flynn Peterson reached a $1,278,000 medical malpractice settlement in a case involving a healthy female teen who died as a result of a negligent failure to diagnose mononucleosis.  Read the following Minnesota Case Report:

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Trial Lawyer Association’s (MTLA) “Minnesota Case Reports”)

A healthy female teen became nauseous, tired, dizzy and feverish at the end of July, 2005.  These symptoms coupled with a bad nosebleed prompted a visit to an urgent care.  Lab work there showed a markedly elevated white count (WBC) made up of usual numbers of a specific type of white cell called lymphocytes and low platelets (part of the body’s blood clotting system).  The doctor told them the lab results were “strange…something serious but not the flu.”  An antibiotic was prescribed.
Within two days, the teen worsened so visited her pediatrician on August 2, 2005.  This doctor gave a diagnosis of pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and thrombocytopenia (low platelets).  Her antibiotic was changed.  At a follow up appointment two days later, pain over the area of the right kidney prompted her doctor to send her to the hospital for a CT scan.

The CT scan report read “consideration of cholecystitis and [any] disease which can affect the gallbladder secondarily such as hepatitis”. She was admitted to the hospital with a new diagnosis of cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). There was no discussion of the abnormal lab work. 

On August 8, 2005, she was taken to surgery for removal of her gall bladder and a biopsy of her liver.  No blood clotting studies were done before the surgery.  Presence of petechiae (a sign of high risk for bleeding) was recorded by the pre-op nurse. At some point during surgery, blood clotting studies were ordered and significantly above normal.  Soon after arrival in the recovery area, she went into shock.
Despite her critical condition, the teen was returned to her regular room, not the ICU, to await transfusion orders.  Another bloody stool gave evidence of continuing internal bleeding.  She died within hours after her surgery of massive blood loss shock.
An autopsy was performed and showed her death was due to hemorrhage from clotting deficiencies due to mononucleosis/EBV with liver involvement.  It was the unanimous opinion of plaintiffs’ experts that the teen’s death was caused by failure of her physicians to recognize this common viral illness and to have put her through an unnecessary surgery causing her to bleed to death. The case settled at mediation without suit being filed.


Case Name:

Female Teenager v. Hospital and Clinic

Date: July, 2007

John F. Eisberg
Kathleen Flynn Peterson