Stamford Superior Court (Photo: Mia Malafronte)
It took a six-person jury only 75 minutes Friday to find that three doctors and a neonatology group affiliated with Norwalk Hospital were not responsible for the death of a 3-year-old boy who suffered from a rare respiratory condition.
In their 49-page amended complaint filed Jan. 11 in Stamford Superior Court, Kevin and Caroline Havlin Hoffman sued Drs. Eric Margolis, Meltem Seli and James Fritzell as well as Onsite Neonatal Partners Inc. for $18.5 million, claiming their son, Dylan, was not properly treated and that the doctors in question were “negligent.” The hospital, which was one of the original defendants, was later dropped from the case.
Specifically, the Hoffmans claimed their son, who was brought to the hospital with breathing difficulties when he was 12 hours old in July 2011, was improperly discharged. Margolis “did not request a cardiac consultation, echocardiogram or other cardiac workup” for the infant before he left the hospital, according to the lawsuit.
“Dr. Margolis knew or should have known about Dylan Hoffman’s condition, including, among other things, that Dylan had presented to Norwalk Hospital with a heart murmur, had breathing problems resulting in low oxygen saturation levels and requiring administration of oxygen, appeared acrocyanotic (discolored) on admission, experienced weight loss and had cold fingers, feet and toes.”
According to Eric J. Stockman, the New Haven-based attorney for the doctors and the neonatology group, the doctors in question did not request a cardiac consultation “because they were not required to and the baby did not manifest signs or symptoms of a cardiac issue.”
The jury, comprised of four women and two men, had to decipher which side of differing medical testimony to believe. While the family and its medical experts maintained there was a cardiac issue in play, the defendants’ experts disagreed.
The boy ended up having disabling brain damage, which resulted in physical, mental and psychological developmental injuries, impairments and delays. Dylan died Sept. 12, 2014.
“Dylan’s death was no one’s fault,” said Stockman, of Neubert Pepe & Monteith. “Dylan had a congenital condition called coarctation aorta [narrowing of the aorta]. The neonatologists diagnosed him with a condition called transient tachypnea, which is extra fluid in the lungs. None of his signs and symptoms were indicative of a cardiac condition. Nonetheless, the plaintiff claims we should have investigated the possibility that a cardiac condition [was] to blame for these things.”
Stockman said there was no negligence and the standard of care was met, noting the hospital kept Dylan an extra day to make sure his respiratory issues had gone away.
“At the time of discharge, he was 100 percent healthy,” Stockman said. “Dylan has an insidious condition that often lurks without signs or symptoms.”
Paul A. Slager, an attorney with Stamford-based Silver Golub & Teitell, represented the Hoffman family.
“Although we believe the doctors let Dylan down, we knew this was a difficult case and it was made more difficult by the fact that the medical establishment lined up to defend the disputed case, as is so often [the case] in matters like this,” Slager told the Connecticut Law Tribune Monday. “We disagree with the jury’s conclusion, but also respect and value the role of the jury in hearing disputes like this and we appreciate having had the opportunity to tell Dylan’s story.”
Judge Robert L. Genuario presided in the case.