Jury awards $3.7 million in boy's death

March 01, 2000|By Diana K. Sugg | Diana K. Sugg,SUN STAFF

A jury has awarded a West Baltimore woman roughly $3.7 million in the death of her 2-year-old son, who died the morning after he was treated and released from the University of Maryland Medical Center's emergency room.

The toddler, Jamal Mallory, had been taken to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing. Had Jamal been admitted, said the family's attorney, Henry E. Dugan Jr., he might have been saved.

"Then they would have been able to intervene by doing suctioning and giving oxygen," said Dugan, a Baltimore malpractice attorney. "But they failed to recognize how serious this was."

The verdict, delivered Friday after a two-week trial in Baltimore Circuit Court, will be appealed, said Ellen Beth Levitt, a hospital spokeswoman. "We agree that this is a very sad case, however the care that was rendered here was absolutely appropriate," she said. "He was in good condition when he was discharged."

On March 15, 1996, Jamal's mother and grandmother noticed him wheezing and took him to his pediatrician. The doctor observed the boy's oxygen level dropping. Jamal was taken to the hospital by ambulance, on oxygen.

After some tests, physicians concluded Jamal had an upper respiratory infection and sent him home. The next morning, Jamal's mother, Markieta Mallory, couldn't wake him up. An ambulance took him back to the hospital, where he was declared dead.

The hospital's attorneys had argued the child died because he had ingested a poisonous substance after he left the emergency room. Levitt said that the medical examiner's toxicology tests turned up nothing because the screening for toxins was limited.

The family's medical experts concluded that the child most likely died because mucus was plugging his lungs, possibly causing small airways to spasm and cut off oxygen. This can lead to cardiac arrhythmia, which is what the medical examiner ruled was the cause of death.

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