Jury Awards Man Who Went Into Coma $27 Million After Doctor Said He Had The Flu

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Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
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A jury in Des Moines, Iowa, awarded a man $27 million after a local urgent care clinic improperly diagnosed him with influenza, which later caused him to develop permanent brain damage.

The plaintiff, Joseph Dudley, contracted a serious meningitis infection in 2017 and was improperly diagnosed with the flu at a local UnityPoint Health urgent care clinic, the Des Moines Registrar reported. Due to the false diagnosis, he suffered more serious conditions which caused permanent damage to several of his nerves.

The physician, Melanie Choos, was found guilty by a jury on Monday for negligence, the outlet reported. The clinic awarded him and his family $12 million for future loss of his full mind and body, and $10 million for future pain and suffering. They also received $2.5 million for past loss of body and function and $2.5 million for past pain and suffering.

His attorney, Nick Rowley, alleges that the clinic did not perform a proper examination or tests in order to correctly diagnose him.

“This is a fair and just verdict for a man who has severe, permanent brain damage and who is one of tens of thousands of medical malpractice victims that have cases pending in this country,” Rowley said.

At the time, Dudley experienced fatigue and dizziness and had a fever of over 103 degrees, the outlet reported. He became delusional and acted up as doctors attempted to conduct a nasal test. He further suffered from a high heart rate tachypnea, which causes unusual breathing.

Though his flu test came back negative, Choos assured he had influenza and sent him home with Tamiflu, the outlet reported. His wife, Sarah, called the doctor’s decision a “death sentence” for her husband. He could not even walk because of his dizziness and had to be placed in a wheelchair to leave the clinic. (RELATED: Woman Gets $5.25 Million After Doctor Used His Own Sperm To Impregnate Her) 

He later spent eight days in an intensive care unit until being discharged on March 28, 2017, the outlet reported. Doctors found that he suffered from three strokes caused by the infection, leading him to permanently lose hearing in his right ear and nerve damage in his right leg. He also has mood swings and paranoia.

His wife said it took six months for him to relearn how to walk, bathe and feed himself and had to undergo speech therapy, the outlet reported. His wife said he is also unable to do many things with his young children.

Rowley said the clinic allowed for “sloppy, substandard medical care” for its patients by only have Choos on staff without a physician to supervise, the outlet reported.

Sarah alleged that the malpractice of her husband was at least partly due to him being black, the outlet reported. Choos allegedly asked her which illegal drugs her husband took, to which she replied that he did not take any. The clinic has denied that racial bias played a role.

“UnityPoint Health emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion in health care,” health system officials said in a statement Tuesday, according to the outlet. “We strive to eliminate racial, economic and social disparities while improving the health of the people and communities we serve. Our top priority is to provide the best possible care for anyone who needs us, and make our spaces safe and welcoming for patients, families and team members.”

“We respect the jury process but strongly disagree with this verdict and are exploring all options, including an appeal. We support our providers and clinicians as they make important medical decisions each day,” the statement continued. “UnityPoint Clinic remains committed to providing compassionate, personalized care and meeting the highest standards of clinical quality and patient safety.”