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Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group Sued for Malpractice

A Santa Cruz area medical group was recently sued by a woman who claims to have suffered a life-threatening reaction to a medicine that was prescribed.

Kathleen Hardin developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENs) after being prescribed Lamictal (Lamotrigine) by Dr. Sharon S. Jamieson of the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group.

Hardin was prescribed the medication in April of 2010 and was rushed to urgent care a few weeks later after falling ill. Physicians at a nearby hospital diagnosed Hardin with SJS and were unable to stop the effects before she fell into a coma.

Lamictal is an anticonvulsant medication commonly prescribed to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and depression, among other things.

This medication carries an FDA “black box warning” because it can result in life-threatening skin reactions such as SJS and TEN. These reactions are rare, and impact 1 in 1,000 patients.

The rarity of SJS is perhaps why Dr. Jamieson allegedly failed to discuss this side effect with Hardin. In a lawsuit, Hardin claims that her physician did not explain the serious side effects of Lamictal with her. Hardin also claims the pharmacy also did not provide any warnings when the drug was dispensed.

Unfortunately, Hardin was one of the rare patients to develop SJS, which turned into TENs when she was in a two-month coma. When Hardin was released from the hospital she was told that she developed SJS as a result of her medication. She still had open wounds and was virtually blind when she left the hospital.

Hardin and her husband filed a lawsuit against Dr. Jamieson, her medical practice, and Safeway Pharmacy in October of 2011. Medical malpractice lawsuits in California are subject strict statute of limitations, and both a trial court and appeals court determined that Hardin failed to file her lawsuit on time.

The one year limitations period for medical malpractice cases starts when a person “discovers or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury.”

In this case, the court found that Hardin’s limitation period started when she woke up from her coma and that she waited too long to file.