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  • Medical Malpractice – Coughing, Maskless Medical Assistant Gives Infant Life-Threating Tuberculosis: Tuzinsky v. Cockburn

Sommers Schwartz attorneys Matthew Curtis and Dina Zalewski filed a medical malpractice lawsuit on behalf of an infant who contracted a serious and life-threatening bacterial infection due to his health care providers’ failure to adequately protect him from the infection’s risks. 

The plaintiff was a healthy infant after delivery. During the first four days of his life, the only places the infant visited, other than his home, were the defendant hospital where he was born and the defendant pediatric practice where he had his first newborn visit. 

The defendant medical assistant with whom the plaintiff had his first visit was coughing throughout their encounter and did not wear a mask or other personal protective equipment of any kind. One month later, the plaintiff had another appointment with the defendant medical assistant, who again coughed throughout the visit while failing to wear a mask.

Less than one month after that second appointment, the plaintiff returned for another visit due to fever. Once again, the medical assistant coughed during the entire visit and did not wear a mask. Ten days later, with a consistently high fever, the plaintiff was admitted to the emergency room, where tests indicated an area of concern in the upper lobe of the child’s right lung and elevated CRP and white blood cell count. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with antibiotics.

A few weeks later, when the child returned for a follow-up appointment, a CT scan found he had bronchogenic cysts on his right lung that required surgical intervention to remove. However, scheduled surgery was delayed after further tests revealed that the child had two possible lung infections: histoplasmosis and tuberculosis. 

The child then received treatment for TB, including a full medication regimen. These drugs made the child extremely sick and irritable and caused vomiting, making it difficult to keep the medicine down. To ensure that the child received the medicine’s benefits, his parents had to use an NG tube to administer the medication for six to nine months, a traumatic process for the child and his parents. 

The parents later learned that the defendant medical assistant tested positive and was later diagnosed and hospitalized with tuberculosis. Other staff also tested positive for TB. The child’s immediate friends and family tested negative for the condition. The medical assistant’s negligence in exposing the child to TB, and the defendant medical practice’s failure to competently take preventive steps to screen staff for TB, directly led to the child’s life-threatening illness and the need for ongoing and distressing medical care. The illness and the necessary treatment caused the child and his family to suffer severe emotional and psychological trauma. 

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