Marshall L. Schwartz and Brett M. Littman obtained a defense verdict on behalf of an internal medicine physician, an infectious disease physician, and a hospital following an eight-day jury trial involving allegations that the physicians failed to appropriately treat sepsis caused by fungal infection, which allegedly caused the death of a patient.

The case involved a 55 year-old female who presented for consultations with an oncologist and surgeon after being diagnosed with advanced bladder cancer. She also had a long-standing medical history of strokes and other chronic problems. Before the patient decided to undergo treatment, she was emergently admitted to the hospital with altered mental status, fever, and other potential signs of sepsis, which likely came from the urinary tract. The defendants treated the patient with antibiotics, and she improved to the point that she was able to be discharged. Soon after her discharge, however, the patient’s symptoms returned, and she was readmitted. She was again treated with antibiotics, but her course worsened. She suffered a heart attack and deteriorated before passing away.

Plaintiff alleged that while the defendants successfully treated the patient for her bacterial infection, they ignored the fact that the patient also had a fungal infection, which could not be treated with antibiotics. Rather, the patient required anti-fungal medications, which she should have received as early as the first admission. To support this contention, they argued that the defendants should have taken into account a pathology report that showed that a clot found in the patient’s urine was made up of both fungus and bacteria, and that the defendants should have considered a urine culture that showed fungus.

The defense argued, with the support of an infectious disease physician, that the earlier findings of fungus were merely incidental and did not require treatment. Once the defendants found actual evidence of a fungal infection in the form of a positive blood cultures, they immediately took the appropriate action, which included treatment with anti-fungal medication. The defense successfully argued that by the time it was appropriate to treat the patient, her condition had become so dire that her death was inevitable and not caused by any alleged negligence.

After deliberations that spanned three days, the jury found that the internal medicine physician was not negligent. The jury also found that while the infectious disease physician and hospital acted negligently, that negligence was not a factual cause of any injuries. The result of these findings was a defense verdict.