Request for new medical malpractice trial against pediatrician denied; Ruth: 'The parties received a fair trial'

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Oct 2, 2018

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth denied a patient’s request for a new trial following a defense verdict in a medical malpractice suit against an Alton pediatrician.

In his Sept. 7 order, Ruth concluded that there was no undue prejudice and the parties received a fair trial.

“Arguments heard, the court finds the verdict was not against the manifest weight of the evidence and there was ample evidence to support the jury’s general verdict,” the order states.

Madison County jurors had reached a verdict in favor of defendants Alton MultiSpecialists and Dr. Steven Zenker on Feb. 21 in a suit alleging a boy’s germ cell tumor progressed due to delayed diagnosis.

Plaintiff Midland State Bank, as guardian of Jentzen Felt, filed an amended motion for a new trial on May 2 through attorney Roy C. Drips of Armbruster Dripps Winterscheidt & Blotevogel LLC in Maryville.

Dripps wrote that during closing arguments, Zenker’s counsel, Hinshaw & Culbertson in Belleville, suggested that the reason Felt’s parents did not tell Zenker about the bruising on his buttocks was because they wanted to avoid being the subject of a DCFS investigation for child abuse.

Dripps argued that there was “no evidentiary basis for this accusation, nor could there have been, based on this court’s in limine rulings preventing defendants from blaming the parents.”

He argued that the comments warranted a new trial.

Dripps had also argued that the defense verdict was against the weight of the evidence because Zenker admitted during cross examination that he failed to obtain Felt’s emergency room records from Alton Memorial Hospital.

Felt’s parents argued that had Zenker done a follow-up examination following the boy’s emergency room visit, then the defendant would have realized that Felt still had a lesion on his buttocks and required further evaluation.

As for Felt’s alleged hearing loss, Dripps wrote that while the jury did not reach the issue of whether delayed diagnosis caused his hearing loss or will increase the risk of late effects from chemotherapy, Zenker’s “deviation from the standard of care” caused Felt at a minimum to experience fever-like symptoms and pain longer than he would have otherwise.

However, in a motion for a directed verdict, the defendants argued that the plaintiff failed to establish that Zenker’s standard of care deviated from the applicable standard of care or that the delayed diagnosis caused the child’s hearing loss.

According to Felt’s first amended complaint, he came under the care of Zenker, a pediatrician working with Alton MultiSpecialists, and was treated up to and including July 3, 2012.

Between December 2011 and July 3, 2012, Zenker examined Felt no fewer than 13 times, the suit states. Zenker was repeatedly informed that Felt was suffering from a persistent fever, which was confirmed during examinations.

Felt’s family also allegedly asked Zenker to examine swelling on the child’s left buttock.

Then on Aug. 3, 2012, Felt was taken to St. Louis Children’s Hospital due to the persistent fever and concerns about the swelling.

Shortly after admission, the swelling was diagnosed as a slow growing, malignant germ cell tumor.

Surgery could not be performed because the tumor had grown so large that it became intertwined with major arteries and nerves. Felt had to undergo aggressive chemotherapy to treat the tumor.

Felt allegedly suffered hearing loss as a result of the chemotherapy treatments.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 14-L-920

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Organizations in this Story

Armbruster, Dripps, Winterscheidt and Blotevogel Hinshaw and Culbertson

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