Eric and Christina Hutto of St. Landry Parish were awarded $2 million each for the wrongful death of their five-month-old daughter, Brianna, and $1 million for survival damages.
“Christina and Eric’s testimony show that Brianna was in pain and suffered until near her death. She was cognizant of them being present and wanted to be held and comforted by them, but they could not give her what she sought.
“It is not for us to second guess the jury’s determination of the pain, suffering, and mental anguish Brianna experienced during her last days, especially when her mother and father could not hold her and give her the comfort and closeness she sought from them,” the appeals panel ruled.
The baby was running some fever and had upset bowels when Christina and her mother, Theresa Olivier, took her to Opelousas General Hospital on Jan. 3, 2003.
According to the court, while waiting for Brianna to be seen by a physician, Christina showed OGH emergency department personnel the bottle of Infants Tylenol she had administered to Brianna that morning. Brianna’s 11:00 a.m. dose of 0.8 ml Infant’s Tylenol was noted on the Intake sheet generated with Brianna’s treatment that evening.
After Brianna was examined by the emergency physician, an OGH nurse gave Christina written after-care instructions which instructed that Brianna be given three-quarters of a teaspoon “Tylenol.”
The record reflects that Theresa questioned whether the dose was appropriate for such a young infant, and the nurse left her and Christina. The nurse returned and changed the instruction from three-quarters of a teaspoon to one teaspoon, explaining the higher dose would be more effective for Brianna’s weight.
“Unbeknownst to Christina and Theresa, the nurse’s instruction referred to Children’s Tylenol not Infant’s Tylenol because OGH used Children’s Tylenol exclusively. Christina and Theresa assumed the instruction referred to the Infants Tylenol Christina used before bringing Brianna to the hospital because she had shown the bottle to OGH personnel.
“At the time, OGH nurses, not doctors, calculated the appropriate doses of acetaminophen. OHG’s representative testified that the nurse did not consult the doctor who treated Brianna when he gave his ‘Tylenol’ dosing instruction. Infant’s Tylenol is approximately four times more concentrated than Children’s Tylenol.”
The court noted that OGH had a written policy on addressing questions caregivers, like Christina and Theresa, had about Tylenol dosing.
The policy required OGH personnel to give the caregivers a Tylenol dosing sheet. The dosing sheet was prepared and distributed by McNeil, the manufacturer and a defendent in the case; it identified four different Tylenol products that are for infants or children and specified the different dosing instructions for each product.
OGH’s policy also required its personnel to circle the correct dose on the dosing sheet to insure caregivers knew which product and how much product to administer to the infant or child patient.
OGH admitted at trial that it violated its own policy by not providing Christina and Theresa with a dosing sheet, the judges noted.
Subsequently, the child developed acetaminophen toxicity and needed a liver transplant, which she was unable to have because of the viral ailment which originally sent her to the hospital.
Brianna died on Jan. 8, five days after the initial hospital visit.
The parents sued the hospital, physician and manufacturer.
In March 2010, the hospital admitted liability and paid the couple $100,000 and the physician, who had not calculated the dosage, was dismissed as a defendent.
Due to OGH’s admission of liability, the Patients Compensation Fund (PCF) entered the case to defend the fund on the issue of causation and damages.
The jury eventually found the labeling on Infants’ Tylenol was defective; it assessed 23% fault to McNeil, 70% fault to OGH, 2% fault to Christina, and 5% to Theresa.
Appeals on several points were made, but the higher court found no error on the part of Judge Donald Hebert or the jury.