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Court of Appeals overturns jury verdict against doctor who treated baby

Lolinda Randolph sued Scott E. Langeberg, a pediatric surgeon, after her baby, Bryan Randolph, died within two months of his birth and within several hours of seeing Langeberg in his office.  Langeberg saw Bryan repeatedly after his birth because the baby struggled with severe constipation and Langeberg suspected Hirschsprung's disease--a dysfunctional condition of the colon that must be treated surgically.  A jury heard the evidence and concluded that Dr. Langeberg committed malpractice when he failed to admit the child to the hospital after an emergent May 8 office visit sought by the parents' concern over his condition. 

During the May 8 visit hours before the child's death, Dr. Langeberg expressed concern that the child might have developed Hirschprung's enterocolitis.  Langeberg claimed he thought the baby "looked healthy," although he observed symptoms of constipation including lethargy, mildly distended abdomen and "hard stool with liquid surrounding it."  In his history section relating to the May 8 visit, Dr. Langeberg had also indicated "rectal impaction," however, at trial Langeberg argued that his notes did not support a finding of actual impaction or dehydration.  Langeberg claimed he would have admitted the child if he had identified these conditions. 

The child's family's physician expert witness testified that the notes supported a finding of impaction and that the dehydration condition which was identified later in the Emergency Room must have commenced and been evident during the office visit.  Based on these findings, the expert testified that Bryan should have been admitted to the hospital for work-up and treatment.  He testified that if proper action had been taken, Bryan would have survived this incident, and obviously the jury believed his testimony.

In an semantic exercise worthy only of Judge Henry Saad, the Court of Appeals arrogated itself to the position of finder-of-fact and overturned the jury's verdict.  The Court ruled that there wasn't sufficient evidence of dehydration or impaction at the time of the May 8 office visit to support the family's expert witness' testimony.  Because Langeberg never "agreed" that there was impaction or dehydration when he saw the baby, the Court concluded that the record did not support the family's expert's testimony.

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