Legal Newsline

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Urgent care clinic wins malpractice appeal over flesh-eating disease

State Court

By Juliette Fairley | Mar 25, 2020


DES MOINES, Iowa (Legal Newsline) - An urgent care clinic won its appeal of a medical malpractice lawsuit it initially lost to a couple complaining of an alleged misdiagnosis that resulted in unnecessary amputation.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled March 12 against Sharon and Larry Susie, who had sued Family Health Care of Siouxland and physician assistant Sara Harty, alleging in their complaint that Harty’s failure to administer antibiotics led to Mrs. Susie losing her arm and toe.

“The Susies alleged defendants were negligent because Sharon’s condition was not properly diagnosed and treatment was not timely commenced, requiring amputation of her right arm,” the decision states. “Later, the Susies also alleged defendants’ actions resulted in the lost chance to save Sharon’s arm and toes from amputation.”

It wasn’t until after Ms. Susie became ill a day later that she received antibiotics but it was too late, according to the ruling.

“Sharon was taken to Mercy Medical Center in Sioux City where she was diagnosed with septic shock and kidney failure,” wrote Chief Justice Christensen, author of the Supreme Court ruling. 

“She was immediately placed on antibiotics, but her condition continued to deteriorate. The biopsy of Sharon’s right arm showed she had necrotizing fasciitis, also known as flesh-eating disease. To stop the progression of the life-threatening disease, doctors amputated Sharon’s right arm. As a result of medication that directed blood flow to her vital organs, eight of Sharon’s toes were amputated as well.” 

Although the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County ruled against the Susies after the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, the Susies won when the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision.

However, on appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s original decision in favor of Family Health Care of Siouxland.

“We vacate the decision of the court of appeals and affirm the district court’s judgment,” wrote Chief Justice Christensen in the Supreme Court ruling. “Because the plaintiffs failed to set forth specific facts showing a prima facie case of causation and lost chance of survival, we affirm the judgment of the district court.” 

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Iowa Supreme Court