A Jackson, Michigan woman was awarded over $1 million in a medical malpractice case brought after she suffered complications from a 2009 surgery. Prior to 2009, forty-three-year-old Kathie Pagan operated her own medical staffing and home care company and maintained an active lifestyle, including jogging two miles or more per day. In June of 2009, Ms. Pagan visited Dr. Rouchdi Rifai for an abdominoplasty (commonly referred to as a “tummy tuck”). After the surgery, Ms. Pagan noted a dark-colored drainage, clots, and burning sensations focused around the site of the surgery. Subsequent treatment and tests conducted by other medical providers revealed that Ms. Pagan had contracted a staph infection, requiring continuing treatment. As a result of the infection, Ms. Pagan’s health deteriorated and she was no longer able to keep up her business or her active lifestyle. The jury found that Dr. Rifai was negligent in failing to timely detect the staph infection and awarded Ms. Pagan $500,000 for pain, suffering, scarring, and disfigurement; $382,000 for loss of income, and $430,000 for loss of future income through 2017.
Staph Infections in Healthcare Facilities
The precise nature of Ms. Pagan’s claim against Dr. Rifai did not suggest Dr. Rifai was negligent or careless and this carelessness resulted in Ms. Pagan developing a staph infection; rather, the claim was that, when she began exhibiting symptoms, Dr. Rifai did not take steps necessary to detect and treat the staph infection. Nevertheless, healthcare professionals and facilities are to take certain precautions to prevent patients from developing staph infections. A healthcare facility or professional can be liable for monetary damages if the facility or professional was either negligent in diagnosing a staph infection (as was the case in Ms. Pagan’s situation) or if the facility or professional failed to take precautions to prevent a patient from contracting a staph infection.
A staph infection is caused by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria. It is estimated that up to one-third of people carry this bacteria in their noses, usually with no ill effects. Patients are at a greater risk of developing a staph infection due to weakened immune systems and/or because of open surgery wounds. In a healthcare setting, however, staph infections can be serious and sometimes fatal. A staph infection can spread into the bloodstream, causing sepsis or a bone infection. A staph infection may also cause pneumonia or infect the heart valves. In some cases, the staph bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, making an infection much more serious and much more difficult to fight.
Medical Malpractice Damages Can Include Both Past and Future Harm
Ms. Pagan’s case also serves as a reminder that damages in a medical malpractice case can compensate not just harm already suffered but also harm that the injured patient is likely to suffer in the future. Where a patient can no longer return to the line of work he or she enjoyed prior to a staph infection, or has their earnings otherwise limited in the amount of wages he or she could expect to receive (i.e., where he or she cannot work as many hours as before), an injured party can seek damages to address these future lost or reduced earnings. Contact us today at (508) 755-7535 for a free consultation if you or a loved one contracted a staph infection – or any illness or infection – while under the treatment of a healthcare facility or professional.