JFK Memorial Hospital and Palo Verde Hospitals Sued in Flesh Eating Bacteria Case

Two California hospitals were recently sued by the family of a patient who died of necrotizing fasciitis, otherwise known as flesh-eating bacteria. This case involves 45-year-old Cosme Camargo Jr., who was brought to the Palo Verde emergency room complaining of pain and swelling in his left arm. Surgeons at the hospital noted a blood flow blockage and operated on the arm to restore circulation.

The next day, the surgeons noted that Camargo’s white blood cell count was high and rising. He was ultimately diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) which can only be prevented by cutting off the impacted tissues.

Camargo’s doctor called John F Kennedy Memorial Hospital to transfer him because Palo Verde did not have the facilities or staff to treat flesh-eating bacteria. A JFK Hospital surgeon declined to admit Camargo because he believed the facility couldn’t handle a patient with flesh-eating bacteria.

The Palo Verde doctor then called another surgeon at JFK and obtained approval to make the transfer. According to court documents, the Palo Verde doctor did not tell the second JFK surgeon that Camargo had flesh-eating bacteria, or that his transfer request had previously been denied.

Camargo was transferred to JFK’s emergency room. Although flesh-eating bacteria was noted on several of the documents that were transferred with him, an official diagnosis was not noted on the JFK emergency room documents or on his ICU chart.

Ultimately JFK was not equipped to handle a patient with flesh-eating bacteria. Court documents describe a harrowing transfer of Camargo to a San Diego hospital as his condition deteriorated rapidly. Camargo ultimately suffered multisystem organ failure and sepsis and died in surgery in San Diego.

Lawsuits were filed and a jury trial commenced. A jury ultimately awarded Camargo’s family $398,069 in economic damages against both Palo Verde and JFK, and $4,301,000 in noneconomic damages, and an additional $1,840,000 in noneconomic damages against Palo Verde.

On appeal, judges upheld a substantial amount of the judgment against JFK and granted a new trial against Palo Verde concerning the fraudulent concealment of Camargo’s condition.

Citation: Camargo v. John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital, Inc., Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California. August 20, 2014. 2014 WL 4097607
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