$1,665,000 Jury Verdict for Failure to Diagnose Allergy

An emergency room doctor will pay $1 million under a high-low agreement in a suit over a 40-year-old man’s death from an allergic reaction to multiple bee stings.

The Morris County suit, handled by the firm, alleged that the decedent might still be alive if doctors who treated him at St. Clare’s Hospital in Denville diagnosed his bee-sting allergy and gave him the proper medication.

In July 2005, the man was rushed to the hospital after a neighbor found him unconscious near his lawnmower and a swarm of bees. She claimed she told the emergency room doctor and a nurse that she thought her neighbor had been stung. The doctor did not remember being told but the nurse did. The information was not noted in the decedent’s medical records.

The internist who treated the man in the intensive care unit, allegedly told his wife that the bee stings had been ruled out when she asked whether there was any sign of them. The doctor also allegedly told her that heat stroke caused her husband’s collapse, and that he thought her husband had a seizure disorder. The man was sent home when EEG and CT tests for a seizure disorder were negative.

On Aug. 30, 2005, the man’s wife allegedly saw him stung again. Though he was rushed to the hospital, he died.

The doctors should have provided the decedent with an EpiPen that can slow swelling and allow enough time to reach an emergency room.

A $1 million/$700,000 high-low agreement was reached with the emergency room defendant doctor during jury deliberations. The internist settled for a confidential amount during the trial.

The jury found damages of $850,000 for lost wages, $810,000 for loss of care and companionship and $5,000 for pain and suffering, totaling $1.665 million. It allocated 52.5 percent of liability to the emergency room doctor and 47.5 percent to the ICU internist. The result was an $874,125 verdict against the emergency room doctor , which climbed to $1.058 million with interest, triggering the high-low agreement.