Med mal trial against ER doctor opens in St. Clair County

By Amelia Flood | Apr 28, 2010

A mother's case against the emergency room doctor she claims failed to treat her son 10 years ago opened Tuesday in St. Clair County court.

Plaintiff Ronnika Watson described the April 2000 death of her two year-old son, Darrell Banks Jr., as "the worst day of my life."

Watson is suing Dr. Danuta Pikul, the emergency room doctor who treated her son, for damages of at least $50,000. She alleges that Pikul failed to treat the boy's deteriorating condition.

Watson and other witnesses testified that on the day he was taken to the emergency room, Darrell's condition worsened as the day went on.

According to the testimony of Watson's deceased mother, she eventually called her daughter to take Darrell to St. Elizabeth's Hospital due to a worsening fever and diarrhea.

Ronnika Watson testified that although tests were done, Pikul told her that she would discharge Darrell.

The boy died around 3:30 a.m. April 22, 2000, hours after he was brought in. Cause of death was ruled as sepsis.

"I loved my son," Ronnika Watson said, visibly fighting tears on the witness stand. "I thought we were going home. But I went home alone."

On cross examination, Ronnika Watson and the boy's father, Darrell Banks Sr., each admitted to some differences between their live testimony and depositions taken in the case.

The defense contends that Pikul did nothing wrong and that Darrell died from a fast-moving infection that led to complications with his adrenal glands. Those complications accelerated the infection in the boy's blood that killed him.

Presiding judge Andrew Gleeson let jurors break shortly before noon Tuesday. The trial resumed at 1:15 p.m.

The trial will continue Wednesday.

Ronnika Watson originally filed suit against Pikul and St. Elizabeth's in 2002. She voluntarily dismissed her suit in 2007. It was refiled in 2008.

Pikul is the only remaining defendant.

Ronnika Watson is represented by Richard Hauser and others.

Pikul is represented by James Mendillo and Shane Moskop.

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

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