Monday, January 12, 2009
Patient, 39, dies after delayed diagnosis
‘Warning letter’ should have alerted physician to potential dangers. Decedent Patrick Cavanaugh, 39, went to Sparrow Hospital with flu-like symptoms on July 20, 2003. He had experienced a persistent fever for 10 days prior. After an evaluation by physicians from the Michigan State University Health Team, he was admitted. Ultimately, Cavanaugh was suffering from a fungal infection known as histoplasmosis; however, it was not timely diagnosed by the internal medicine and infectious disease physicians managing his care.
Adding to his trouble, Cavanaugh had previously been diagnosed for rheumatoid arthritis, and was taking a cocktail of medications known to compromise one’s immune system. In particular, Cavanaugh’s regime included Remicade, which tests had shown could increase a patient’s likelihood of developing life-threatening infections such as histoplasmosis.
According to Matthew G. Curtis, who represents the decedent’s estate, one of the treating physicians was aware of the dangers of Remicade, because in October 2001, he received a warning letter from Remicade’s manufacturer alerting doctors to the potential dangers. Nevertheless, Cavanaugh was not treated with any antibiotic, antifungal or antiviral medications during the first nine days of his admission. By the time he received any medicine, his systems had begun to fail and it was too late to save him, Curtis said. After his death, Cavanaugh’s estate and survivors filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Ingham County, where a jury awarded them $9.1 million in damages.
Type of action: Medical malpractice
Type of injuries: Death
Name of case: Cavanaugh, et al., v. Dwamena, et al.
Court/Case no./Date: Ingham County Circuit Court; 05 972 NH; March 2008
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge: Thomas Brown
Verdict amount: $9.1 million
Attorneys for plaintiff: Matthew G. Curtis, Richard L. Groffsky
Attorney for defendant: Anita B. Folino
January 12, 2009
Homeowners: Steel plant pollution ruins property
Corporation agrees to regular testing as part of payout plan
This class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of residents living near the Great Lakes Works steel plant in the cities of Ecorse and River Rouge, near Detroit, alleged the plant’s pollution control equipment was broken. It resulted in large amounts of metallic flakes being discharged into the air and settling on homeowners’ property in the form of fine dust. In addition, residents had complained for years of seeing large plumes of orange smoke constantly filling the air near the plant.
Defendant United States Steel Company (U.S. Steel) had purchased the plant in May 2003 from National Steel Corp., which sold all of its holdings when the company filed for bankruptcy.
Air-quality tests by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the city of River Rouge found excessive levels of manganese emissions both before and after the U.S. Steel acquisition of the 1,100-acre plant. The plaintiffs explained that manganese causes neurological disruption and symptoms similar to those associated with Parkinson’s disease.
In 2005, U.S. Steel agreed to pay a fine of nearly $1 million and to install and upgrade air pollution controls at the plant. By the time it was done, air emissions returned to normal levels, and were no longer deemed a nuisance.
The plaintiffs – 20,000 people living in 8,400 homes – sought compensation for the time they were forced to endure the emissions. The suit was a real-property action and alleged that the emissions constituted a nuisance in that they significantly interfered with the residents’ use and enjoyment of their property.
U.S. Steel agreed to settle the matter for $4.45 million. It allowed for anyone who lived in Ecorse or River Rouge or owned residential property in either city from May 20, 2003, until Sept. 19, 2008, to be eligible for a $300 payout.
As part of the agreement, U.S. Steel agreed to an ongoing program to detect, correct and prevent air pollution violations at the facility. U.S. Steel also must conduct regular testing to prove that it is following the terms of the agreement.
Type of action: Environmental tort class action
Type of injuries: Property damage, air pollution, nuisance
Name of case: Stanley, et al., v. United States Steel Corporation
Court/Case no./Date: U.S. District Court, Eastern District; 04-74654; Sept. 8, 2008
Name of judge: Avern Cohn
Settlement amount: $4.45 million
Most helpful experts: Rick Harding, Ph.D.
Insurance carrier: Self-insured
Attorneys for plaintiff: Jason J. Thompson, Peter W. Macuga II, Steven D. Liddle
Attorney for defendant: Withheld