Couple accuse hospital, doctors of malpractice

June 26, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

An Elkton couple has filed a malpractice suit against Harford Memorial Hospital and two staff doctors there, claiming that a nine-hour delay in properly diagnosing their daughter's illness caused her to suffer seizures that resulted in permanent brain damage and related medical problems.

The civil suit, filed in Harford Circuit Court Thursday, claims that Lauren Hollenbaugh, the daughter of David and Jacklyn Hollenbaugh, displayed meningitis symptoms when she was taken to the hospital in 1988 and should have promptly received a diagnostic lumbar puncture test, known as a spinal tap.

The suit claims that Drs. Jorge H. Ordonez Smith and Marianne F. Fridberg delayed ordering the test for approximately nine hours, which allegedly caused the child to incur brain damage, recurring seizures, peripheral sight loss, developmental and intellectual regression and related brain and heart damage.

Baltimore attorney Susan Durbin, who represents Dr. Fridberg, said Friday that the girl's medical problems could not be attributed to the care provided by her client.

Attorney Andrew Buckner, who represents the hospital and Dr. Smith, was unavailable for comment, a spokeswoman at his Columbia office said Friday.

The girl's parents are seeking $8 million for their daughter in the two-count suit, half for negligence.

The remaining money damages being sought are for unspecified expenses they say they will incur for their daughter, who is 7. She was 10 months old when she was diagnosed at the hospital's emergency room in 1988 with viral syndrome, a fever caused by an undetermined infection.

In the lawsuit, the Hollenbaughs said that Lauren developed a fever and stomach disorders on Jan. 20, 1988. They took Lauren to the emergency room at Harford Memorial about 10 p.m. after giving her sponge baths and a pain reliever that failed to alleviate the symptoms.

Lauren was admitted to the hospital at 12:05 a.m., but the spinal tap test was not done until 9:15 a.m., they said. As a result of that test, Dr. Smith changed his diagnosis of the girl to influenza meningitis, the Hollenbaughs say.

The Hollenbaughs also allege that Dr. Fridberg, a pediatric specialist, did not examine the child until the morning of Jan. 21, that she should have suspected meningitis from the symptoms and that she should have ordered a spinal tap, which is critical to meningitis treatment.

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