Trial continues in St. Clair County medical malpractice case

Amelia Flood Apr. 29, 2010, 8:32am


The doctor whose treatment of a 17 month-old boy 10 years ago testified in a St. Clair County med mal trial Thursday that she had followed the standard of care and re-run questionable labs just prior to his death.

Defendant Dr. Danuta Pikel also discounted questions on cross examination by plaintiff's counsel Jonathan Andres about differing times in her records of treatment and her observations of the child.

Plaintiff Ronnika Watson is suing Pikul for allegedly failing to monitor and treat her two year-old son, Darrell Banks Jr. during an April 2000 visit to the emergency room at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Belleville.

The boy was brought in around midnight on April 22, 2000.

He died three and a half hours later.

His death was ruled to have been caused by sepsis stemming from complications from a blood infection that destroyed his adrenal glands.

According to testimony in the case, Pikul initially diagnosed the boy with a middle ear infection.

Watson's suit seeks damages of at least $50,000 and costs.

She initially filed the suit against the hospital and Pikul in 2002. She voluntarily withdrew it in 2007 and refiled it in 2008.

St. Elizabeth's was dropped from the case before its second trial.

Much of the case presented Wednesday was taken up by testimony of hospital staff and expert witnesses in the plaintiffs' case.

Pikul asserted on the stand that she had treated the child properly.

"I go by my observation," the doctor, originally from Poland, said. "This child did not look lethargic or toxic to me."

Pikul's observations differ from the observations of the hospital's nursing staff as recorded in the case's records.

She said that she did not know why an antibiotic that she ordered for the boy was not given before he was found not breathing around 3 a.m.

Plaintiff's attorney Jonathan Andres questioned Pikul at length about her timing issues.

The doctor dismissed the differences in her records as problems related to unsynchronized clocks in the St. Elizabeth's emergency room 10 years ago.

She denied that her diagnosis was inconsistant with the boy's symptoms.

"So I evaluate and treat the child as how he looks to me," Pikul said.

She also denied assertions made by Watson that she had told Watson that her son's lab results were fine and that she would discharge them prior to Darrell Banks Jr.'s death.

In a sidebar, Andres and lead plaintiff's counsel Richard Hauser attempted to overturn a motion in limine signed by then-presiding judge, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto, that barred rebuttal testimony about Pikul's attempts to resusitate the child when he was found not breathing.

Andres and Hauser argued that Pikul's own statements opened that door to their expert, Dr. Marc Weber, who testified Wednesday.

Defense attorney James Mendillo countered that Pikul had only discussed those events under questioning by the plaintiff's side.

Presiding judge, St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson agreed with Mendillo.

"What's barred it barred," Gleeson said. "I'm not going to let you come in the back door with what you couldn't get in the front door," Gleeson said.

After the jury returned from lunch at 1:15 p.m. Thursday, Gleeson sent them home at 1:25 p.m.

The trial will resume Friday at 9 a.m. with closing arguments.

The trial began Monday.

Watson is represented by Hauser and Andres.

Pikul is represented by Mendillo and Shane Moskop.

The case is St. Clair case number 08-L-332.

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