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If Nobody is Held Accountable, How do Things Change?

Recent $3M+ Verdict Holds CoxHealth Accountable.

When one-year-old Kyler George woke the morning of June 5, 2017, his mother, Kassie McAtee, thought he seemed unwell. He looked pale, felt cold and clammy, and seemed lethargic. Kassie brought Kyler to the Urgent Care at CoxHealth Branson Hospital, where he was seen by physician assistant Hollis Smith. Without undergoing a complete examination, Kyler was diagnosed with an ear infection and sent home. Three hours later, he tragically died.

Their son’s death could not be undone but they courageously pursued accountability from CoxHeath with the hope and intention of bringing change that could spare others their grief. The family asked Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci to fight for and with them.

Kyler’s Medical History: We could have seen it coming.

When JVM’s pediatric experts examined the Kyler’s medical history, it was discovered that CoxHealth had failed Kyler once before– that earlier failure contributed to his death. When he was just five months old, Kyler was brought to a CoxHealth primary care clinic with a persistent fever that lasted 10 days. A prolonged fever is a flagship symptom of Kawasaki disease, which affects infants and children, and causes inflammation in the blood vessels. Instead of a full workup to rule out Kawasaki, a nurse practitioner diagnosed Kyler with pneumonia (based on an X-ray) even though he did not present other pneumonia symptoms.

Left untreated, Kawasaki disease can weaken the walls of the arteries in the heart, leading to clots that can impede blood flow through the coronary artery, which can cause acute heart failure.

Details of the Lawsuit

Attorneys Roger Johnson and Brian Johnston brought a lawsuit against CoxHealth on behalf of Kyler’s family. No offer of settlement was made before trial by CoxHealth. During the trial for this hotly contested case, the jury heard from 14 medical witnesses, including a total of 10 medical experts. Witnesses testified that because Kyler’s Kawasaki disease was not diagnosed when he was five months old, he did not receive effective treatment that mitigates or eliminates the development of aneurysms, blood clots and heart disease.

If the Kyler’s Kawasaki’s disease had been caught earlier in the acute phase, his blood clots could’ve very likely been prevented or mitigated. Instead, 9 months later, these preventable clots had grown to giant aneurysms. Without treatment, Kyler’s heart became a ticking time bomb. Additionally, the misdiagnosis of Kyler’s condition during his last visit to CoxHealth Urgent Care meant that he didn’t receive the emergency interventions that could have saved his life.

CoxHealth admitted to no wrongdoing and refused to offer any compensation to the family. Furthermore, in a particularly insensitive effort to sway the jury, CoxHealth had an economist testify that the “cost” of raising a child should be considered and that Kyler’s tragic and untimely death actually spared the family the expense of raising him.

At one point in the trial, Kyler’s mom Kassie McAtee told the jury, “If nobody is held accountable, how do things change? You have to fight for what is right.” The Taney County, Missouri, jury agreed. Finding CoxHealth at fault, they awarded the family the entirety of the calculated damages: $3,185,070 and sent a clear message to CoxHealth that they demand a better standard of care for the community at large. Shortly after the trial, the judgment was reduced by about 40 percent to approximately 1.8M, under the state’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

About Our JVM Team

At JVM our mission is to hold people accountable when they injure others through malpractice or negligence. We believe all life is precious, and we fight for what is right, so others do not have to experience the heartache of Kyler’s family. Our firm includes eight award-winning attorneys with proven trial advocacy and more than 140 years of combined experience. We have won more seven-figure medical malpractice verdicts than any other firm in Missouri in the last 10 years. We are committed to following through on our values of truth and justice to the fullest extent for our clients.

This verdict comes on the heels of Brody Kendrick’s case where the family was awarded over $34 million in damages– one of the largest medical malpractice rulings in Missouri. Reflecting on these cases, Attorney Roger Johnson shared, “There’s nothing to celebrate when the loss of a child is involved. But with terrific, courageous clients and truth on our side, we brought accountability. And a critical step toward protecting future families from this type of unnecessary and tragic harm.”

If you need to talk to an attorney, please call us at (417) 206-0100 or contact us online by submitting a contact form here. As one of the region’s leading personal injury law firms, Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci represents clients in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma.


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