Psychiatric Malpractice Claims Rejected by Jury
One of our partners, Tom Leverage, was successful in obtaining a defense verdict recently in a medical malpractice case venued in New York Supreme Court. The case was tried before Justice Alice Schlesinger.
The case involved claims against a psychiatrist alleging an inappropriate dosing of Wellbutrin in 1997 to treat a 6 ½ year girl who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. After several unsuccessful attempts to control her behavior at lower dosages, the psychiatrist increased the dose to 300 mg per day (150 mg. twice a day). This dose level apparently resulted in improvements. Unfortunately, after 5 ½ weeks at that dose, the girl suffered a seizure, a known adverse reaction.
Plaintiff’s claims at trial were that the girl had experienced improvement at a dosage of 150 mg. per day and further increases in the dosage were inappropriate. The plaintiff alleged that 300 mg. per day was an over-dosage for a 50 pound child and caused the seizure. As a consequence of the seizure, it was alleged that the girl could not be treated with Wellbutrin again, the only drug that gave her relief. Plaintiff alleged loss of future earnings as a result of the now uncontrollable ADHD. Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury for an award of $700,000.
The psychiatrist’s records documented that the child was still having significant problems at 225 mg. per day of Wellbutrin which justified a further trial at 300 mg. per day. The child had previously gone through unsuccessful trials on Ritalin and Dexedrine. Eleven days prior to her seizure, the child began to experience abdominal symptoms. The psychiatrist was never informed of these symptoms.
Expert testimony for the defense refuted the plaintiff’s expert testimony that a child should not be given more than 150 mg. per day of Wellbutrin. Defense experts argued Wellbutrin was not a weight-based medication. Defense experts also testified that the child could in fact go back on Wellbutrin as well as several other drugs in order to control her ADHD.
The jury’s verdict in favor of the defense was unanimous.