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Ferrell v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 20, 2017

LISA FERRELL, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Jordan Dixon, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HERNDON, District Judge:

         Introduction and Background

         Pending before the Court is the government's motion for summary judgment (Docs. 27 & 30). Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 29). Based on the following, the Court denies the motion.

         On February 22, 2016, Lisa Ferrell, as special administrator of the estate of Jordan Dixon, deceased, filed a lawsuit based om the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2674 (“FTCA”) against the United States of America (Doc. 1). Count I is a claim for wrongful death under Illinois law, 740 ILCS § 180/1, et seq., and Count II is a for survival claim under Illinois law, 755 ILCS § 5/27-6. The complaint alleges that Dr. Robert Quaas, a pediatrician and an agent of the United States of America, prescribed minocycline to Jordan Dixon, and: 1) negligently and carelessly failed to recognize the signs and symptoms of an adverse drug reaction or DRESS syndrome;[1] 2) negligently and carelessly failed to diagnose an adverse drug reaction or DRESS syndrome; 3) negligently and carelessly failed to attribute the signs and symptoms of an adverse drug reaction or DRESS syndrome to minocycline; 4) negligently and carelessly failed to recommend the immediate discontinuation of minocycline; and 5) negligently and carelessly failed to appropriately treat Jordan's adverse drug reaction. Jordan died on December 21, 2014. The complaint seeks $10 million in damages.

         On February 24, 2017, the government moved to exclude the testimony of plaintiff's expert Dr. Roy M. Colven (Doc. 22). Ferrell filed an opposition to the motion to exclude (Doc. 23). Thereafter, the government filed this motion for summary judgment (Doc. 27), plaintiff filed her opposition (Doc. 29) and the government filed its reply (Doc. 30). In the meantime, the Court denied the government's motion to exclude on March 23, 2017 (Doc. 28). As the motion for summary judgment is ripe, the Court turns to address the motion.

         Facts

         On June 2, 2014, Dr. Quaas, a pediatrician employed by the Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation (“SIHF”), a federally qualified health center, prescribed minocycline, an antibiotic, to Jordan Dixon, a teenager, as treatment for acne.[2] Dr. Quass prescribed 60 pills to Jordan.

         On July 1, 2014, Jordan presented with a three-day illness to St. Elizabeth's Urgicare Center (“Urgicare”). His symptoms included fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting and a diffuse itchy rash, and the Urgicare physician diagnosed him with a viral syndrome. Minocycline was included as a reported medication, but “drug allergy” was not considered in the differential diagnosis. The Urgicare physician prescribed azithromycin, which Jordan began taking. Dr. Colven's report states that, “Presumably, Jordan continues taking minocycline” after this July 1st visit.

         On July 3, 2014, Jordan visited Dr. Quaas and presented with fever, rash and oral lesions, and Dr. Quaas became concerned that Jordan had measles. Dr. Quaas referred Jordan to Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital's Emergency Department. When seen at Cardinal Glennon later on July 3, 2014, Jordan's mother did not mention minocycline. She did mention that Jordan was taking griseofulvin for a scalp infection. A possible drug allergy to azithromycin was suspected, and Cardinal Glennon instructed Jordan to stop taking the azithromycin. Tests for measles and mononucleosis were negative. Dr. Colven states that, “Because there is no record of anyone telling Jordan or his mother to stop the minocycline, after two medical encounters on July 3, he presumably continues it.”

         At the time of the July 3, 2014, Cardinal Glennon ER visit, Jordan had signs of liver inflammation and abnormal kidney function. Lab tests ruled out strep, mononucleosis, and the measles. Cardinal Glennon sent Jordan home with a diagnosis of a drug reaction due to azithromycin with possible mononucleosis.

         Jordan returned to Dr. Quaas's office on July 8, 2014, presenting with a rash, low grade fever, pharyngitis, liver and spleen enlargement, facial swelling, and joint pain and swelling. Dr. Quaas suspected Epstein Barr Virus (“EBV”), ordered more testing, prescribed prednisone, and referred Jordan to Cardinal Glennon, which admitted him on July 11, 2014.

         On or about the time of the July 11, 2014 Cardinal Glennon hospitalization, physicians there opined that Jordan had DRESS syndrome due to minocycline use. The presence of eosinophilia on July 11 was helpful in diagnosing a medication reaction because high eosinophilia counts are not expected to result from a viral infection. The diagnosis of DRESS included a “history of taking minocycline for the previous month and a half.” On July 11, Jordan's mother told Cardinal Glennon that Jordan stopped taking minocycline when the rash started.

         After four hospitalizations, Jordan died on December 21, 2014 at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. The death certificate lists the cause of death as myocarditis; DRESS syndrome, RSV; and Rhinovirus, Enterovirus.

         Summary ...


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