May 24, 2022

In mid-May 2022, a Florida medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of a former firefighter who suffered an above the knee amputation of his right leg after a doctor misdiagnosed a bacterial infection as a sprain. The May 19, 2022 verdict after an eight-day trial resulted in the retired firefighter being awarded $6,805,071 and his wife being awarded $787,371.

The Underlying Facts

The man suffered a leg infection on September 11, 2016 after exposure to the waters of Pensacola Bay. His right leg began aching and the leg developed blue discoloration. The achiness and discoloration worsened by the next day, which led to him seek medical attention at Ascension Sacred Heart Urgent Care Center at Pensacola. While he waited to be seen, he developed blistering on his leg.

He was diagnosed with an ankle sprain and was discharged with crutches and instructions to apply ice and elevate his leg. The man went to a podiatrist the next day, who suspected an ongoing aggressive bacterial infection and referred him to the West Florida Hospital Emergency Department, where he was diagnosed with a necrotizing bacterial infection that required aggressive treatment with antibodies and the debridement of dead issue.

Despite undergoing multiple debridement procedures, the man ultimately had to have an above-the-knee amputation of his right leg.

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Necrotizing Fasciitis

According to the CDC, many types of bacteria that can cause the “flesh-eating disease” called necrotizing fasciitis. Public health experts believe group A Streptococcus (group A strep) are the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis.

Necrotizing fasciitis is a very serious illness that requires care in a hospital. The infection often spreads very quickly. Early symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include: a red, warm, or swollen area of skin that spreads quickly; severe pain, including pain beyond the area of the skin that is red, warm, or swollen; and, fever. Later symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis can include: ulcers, blisters, or black spots on the skin; changes in the color of the skin; pus or oozing from the infected area; dizziness; fatigue (tiredness); and, diarrhea or nausea.

Antibiotics and surgery are typically the first lines of defense if a doctor suspects a patient has necrotizing fasciitis. Since necrotizing fasciitis can spread so rapidly, patients often must get surgery done very quickly. Doctors also give antibiotics through a needle into a vein (IV antibiotics) to try to stop the infection. Sometimes, however, antibiotics cannot reach all of the infected areas because the bacteria have killed too much tissue and reduced blood flow. When this happens, doctors have to surgically remove the dead tissue. It is not unusual for someone with necrotizing fasciitis to end up needing multiple surgeries. In serious cases, the patient may need a blood transfusion.

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If you or a loved one have suffered serious harm (or worse) as a result of medical negligence in Florida or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Florida medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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