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$1,000,000 Settlement for 2-Year Old’s Death from Pneumococcal Meningitis

After 3 weeks of trial before the Honorable Darlene J. Pereksta, Mercer County, Daryl L. Zaslow, of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP (Edison, Red Bank and Toms River), obtained a $1,000,000 settlement on behalf of the Estate of a 2-year-old boy who died of pneumococcal meningitis.

Vaughn Lujan was 2 years old when his father took him to see one of his pediatricians, Priya Stephen, MD on April 8, 2008. At that time, Plaintiffs maintain Vaughn’ symptoms included several days of fever between 103-104, vomiting and decreased activity. Plaintiffs also maintained that Vaughn was extraordinarily tired and could hardly keep his eyes open during the examination performed by Dr. Stephen. Dr. Stephen contended that Vaughn was fully immunized and although Vaughn was tired, he was otherwise alert and appropriate during her examination. Dr. Stephen diagnosed Vaughn as having a viral syndrome. Although Mr. Lujan maintained Dr. Stephen instructed him to bring Vaughn back in 48 hours if he still had a fever or had not improved, Dr. Stephen insisted she also instructed Mr. Lujan to bring Vaughn back in sooner if he got worse.

On April 9, 2008, Vaughn was more tired and less active. That evening Mr. Lujan spoke to Vaughn’s regular pediatrician, Dr. Sean Pierson. The content of this telephone conversation was vociferously disputed. Dr. Pierson maintained he instructed Mr. Lujan of warning signs that if present necessitated that Vaughn receive immediate medical care. Mr. Lujan did not recall any such instructions being given.

When Vaughn was seen by a different pediatrician on April 10, 2008 that pediatrician immediately suspected Vaughn had bacterial meningitis. That diagnosis was confirmed when Vaughn was admitted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Tragically by the time Vaughn arrived at the hospital he was completely unresponsive. Vaughn suffered a stroke on April 17 and died on April 19, 2008.

Plaintiffs alleged that on April 8, 2008, Defendant Stephen deviated from the accepted standards of care in failing to order follow-up care and by failing to properly communicate medical instructions for follow-up care to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs further contended that Defendant Pierson deviated from the accepted standards of care in failing to advise Plaintiffs to seek immediate medical attention for their son when Dr. Pierson spoke to Mr. Lujan on April 9, 2008. The Defendants denied all allegations of negligence and claimed Vaughn’s death was due to his developing a virulent strain of pneumococcal meningitis after Vaughn was seen by Defendant Stephen.