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Clinic Hit With $29M Judgment for Failing to Diagnose Condition

Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities was ordered to provide almost $29 million in compensation to a patient because specialists failed to diagnose her condition. A jury determined that the woman’s rare condition could have been treated with only minor complications had Mercy Clinic taken more proactive measures to provide a timely diagnosis and treatment, but she is now suffering catastrophic complications because the diagnosis was seriously delayed. The patient and her family alleged that they needed to plead with specialists to perform diagnostic tests when she was experiencing severe symptoms of Wilson’s disease and that the delay in ordering these tests resulted in permanent disability.

What is Wilson’s Disease?

Wilson’s Disease is a rare genetic disorder that causes copper to build up in vital organs throughout the body. The organs most impacted by excessive copper levels are the liver and the brain. When copper levels reach unsafe levels, it can result in permanent brain damage and neurological disorders that impact motor function, speech and cognition.

In the case of Emilee Williams, her physicians diagnosed her with anxiety and depression despite the insistence from Emilee and her family that she was undergoing serious complications they did not believe were linked to those conditions. Her symptoms included tremors that prevented her from being able to write, fainting, loss of balance and a mental state mimicking drunkenness.

When Emilee’s mother insisted on neurological testing, her doctors refused, once again attributing the symptoms to depression and anxiety. This went on for about five months until Emilee suffered from tetraplegia, speech impairment, muscle spasms, dysarthria, dystonia and dysphagia. She will never be able to walk again and must now receive her meals through a feeding tube.

Majority of Award for Future Medical Expenses

The cost of caring for anyone suffering from paralysis is exorbitant and in Emilee Williams’s case, she must receive round the clock supervision due to her inability to care for any of her basic needs. When the jury awarded her family $28.9 million in damages, they determined that the future cost of medical expenses was estimated at over $21 million. $1.5 million was awarded for past expenses, both medical and non-economic and $6.4 million was awarded for future out of pocket expenses and pain and suffering.

Responsible Doctor Dismissed from Lawsuit

Dr. Elene Pilapil reviewed Emilee’s case and determined that she was suffering from anxiety and depression when she initially reported tremors, panic attacks and severe fatigue. She and her mother felt that the initial diagnosis was inaccurate and requested more tests to determine whether something else may have been at the root of the problem. Although Pilapil denied the family these tests for over five months as Emilee’s condition worsened, she was dismissed from the lawsuit.

Mercy Clinic Springfield Communities was named the defendant instead and made to pay the entire judgement for Emilee’s injuries. The clinic’s administrators still claim no wrongdoing in the matter and issued a public statement saying that the care provided was adequate and the evidence presented during the trial never proved that its employees deviated from their duty of care. Obviously, the jury disagreed with this assessment.

Failure to diagnose medical conditions due to the refusal to order appropriate tests is a common factor in medical malpractice cases. Providing the wrong diagnosis or delaying the treatment of serious medical conditions can have far reaching consequences for the patient and the care required to treat the subsequent injuries can be expenses.

Copyright © 2020, Rosenfeld Injury LawyersNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 170



About this Author

Jonathan Rosenfeld, Personal Injury Lawyer, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers

I’m an Illinois lawyer with a nationwide practice who represents members of our society who have been seriously injured or killed due to the irresponsible acts of an individual or company. The injured have the same rights as everyone else — to be treated with compassion and respect— but their vulnerability means they need special protection and representation against those who injure, neglect or abuse them. This is my life’s work.

I recognize that an injured person has one opportunity to get the compensation that the law allows. I am fully dedicated and mindful of this...