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Prescriber of Antibiotic that Triggered Stevens Johnson Syndrome Not Liable


A woman presented with a painful lump on the side of her neck. A doctor examined her and prescribed Avelox, once a day for 21 days, for any possible infection.

 

After the woman took the antibiotic, she felt a generalized achiness. The following day she took a second dose, and later developed some shortness of breath, felt tired, and had generalized achiness. The next morning she awoke to find her lips were swollen and her eyes were bulging. She noticed a pink rash on her arms and stomach.

 

She went to an emergency room where she was ordered to stop taking Avelox. After being treated for an allergic reaction she was discharged. Her symptoms improved that day.

 

However, the following morning she awoke with swelling of her lips and noticed her eyes were bulging again. This time her face was swollen and red and the rash was back. She was itchy and noticed two black dots on her tongue. When she returned to the emergency room she was again treated for an allergic reaction. When she did not improve, she was examined again and it was discovered that the lining of her mouth was peeling. When she was discharged she went to another hospital’s emergency room where she was advised that she had Stevens Johnson Syndrome (a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membranes; it is usually a reaction to a medication or an infection).

 

She sued the doctor who prescribed the Avelox and his medical practice group. The doctor and his practice group moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The Suffolk County Supreme Court denied the motion.

 

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Second Department, reversed. The court held that the doctor and his practice group established their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law and the woman failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether any alleged departure was the proximate cause of her alleged injuries.

 

The court held that the doctor and his practice group established their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. The doctor and his practice group submitted an expert affirmation from a physician and an expert affidavit from a pharmacist both asserting that the prescription of Avelox was in accordance with good and accepted standards of medical practice; that any alleged departure was not a proximate cause of the woman’s injuries; and the woman experienced a rare, unpredictable, and unforeseeable type III allergic reaction to Avelox, wherein the patient develops either Stevens Johnson Syndrome or Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TENS).

 

The woman failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether any alleged departure was the proximate cause of her alleged injuries. The woman submitted an affirmation from her expert who opined that the doctor departed from the standard of care by prescribing Avelox without first confirming a bacterial infection with cultures, blood tests, or imaging studies of the head or neck, to determine the cause of the woman’s swollen lymph node.

 

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Second Department, reversed the trial court’s denial of the doctor’s and his medical practice group’s motion for summary judgment.

 

See: Reilly v. Cohen, 2014 WL 5351229, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 07140 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., October 22, 2014) (not designated for publication).

 

Also see the trial court’s decision Reilly v. Cohen, 2012 WL 3186607 (Trial Order), 2012 N.Y. Slip Op. 32018(U) (N.Y.Sup., August 2, 2012) (not designated for publication).

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, May 2013 Report: Drugs, Dosage, and Damage: Physician Liability for Prescribing or Administering Medication

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, June 2012 Report: Too Much, Too Little, Too Late: Injuries from Delays and Failures to Perform CT Scans or Overexposure to Radiation

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, December 2012 Report: When Urgency Leads to Errors: Liability for Emergency Care

 

 

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