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Iowa jury gives $27 million verdict in misdiagnosed flu case

A jury has returned a $27 million verdict against a central Iowa medical clinic after a man with bacterial meningitis was misdiagnosed with the flu, suffered strokes and said he has been permanently injured

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DES MOINES — An Iowa jury has returned a $27 million verdict against a Des Moines medical clinic after a man with bacterial meningitis was misdiagnosed with the flu, suffered strokes and said he has been permanently injured.

The Polk County jury returned the verdict Monday in the lawsuit filed in 2017 against UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine in Des Moines.

Joseph Dudley and his wife Sarah Dudley filed the lawsuit after Joseph became ill in February 2017 and went to the clinic in southeast Des Moines. They reported he had dizziness, delusions, a headache, high fever and a cough.

A physician's assistant in charge of the clinic at the time diagnosed him with the flu although tests returned negative, said Dudley’s lawyer Nick Rowley. Dudley was given Tamiflu and a pain reliever and sent home.

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Two days later he went to the emergency room at UnityPoint Iowa Methodist Medical Center, where a doctor diagnosed the bacterial meningitis resulting from a heart valve infection. Dudley was put into a medically induced coma and was in intensive care for eight days during which he had a series of strokes causing the loss of hearing in his right ear, vertigo and dizziness, numb feet and legs, and much slower thinking and reaction time, Rowley said.

“Mr. Dudley will suffer from a lifetime of permanent brain damage because they failed to perform a simple blood test, a complete blood count,” said Rowley, founder of Trial Lawyers for Justice.

West Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health has 400 clinics, 20 regional hospitals and 19 community network hospitals in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

UnityPoint Health spokesman Mark Tauscheck said the company believes it met well-established standards of care.

“We respect the jury process but strongly disagree with this verdict and are exploring all options including an appeal,” he said.

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