ALS misdiagnosis resulted in inability to walk in medical malpractice case

In fall 2002, following a 50-to-60-mile bike ride, plaintiff Eric Davenport, early 50s, began experiencing weakness in his right hand; a few months later, that weakness spread to his legs. After seeing a few physicians, Davenport was referred to neurologist Leo F. McCluskey, of Pennsylvania Comprehensive Neuroscience Center in Phildalphia. After McCluskey ran many tests, he diagnosed Davenport with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or "Lou Gehrig's Disease") and put him on Rilutek. Davenport alleged that the neurologist told him that he had a few years to live, and that he would suffer from the disease during that time.

Following the ALS diagnosis, Davenport, pursuant to McCluskey's instructions, was to regularly undergo blood and functional tests to monitor his condition and the effects of the medication. Davenport decided to undergo tests near his home rather than traveling to Philadelpha (about an hour away) to see McCluskey.

In early 2006, Davenport had yet to experience the effects of ALS that McCluskey warned him of. This prompted him to see a different neurologist who conducted an MRI, and this neurologist diagnosed him with thoracic myelopathy. It was subsequently confirmed that Davenport never had ALS.

Davenport sued McCluskey and his employer, Pennsylvania Hospital, for medical malpractice.

Davenport's medical malpractice attorneys argued that McCluskey prematurely and without adequate information diagnosed Davenport with ALS, when the MRIs taken in 2003 demonstrated evidence of damage to the plaintiff's thoracic spine, which McCluskey either ignored or did not consider. The plaintiff's counsel also argued that, McCluskey should have closely monitored Davenport throughout his ALS treatment and his regular blood and function tests, and that McCluskey failed to do so.

By 2006, Davenport was unable to walk due to weakness in his legs and had to use a wheelchair. He underwent operation, but it was unsuccessful. The plaintiff's non-treating neurosurgeon expert testified that Davenport would be able to walk if he had undergone the necessary operation in 2003 or 2004.

Davenport is unable to perform daily activities without the help of a nurse, and Davenport lost two jobs.

The jury found McCluskey fully liable for negligence and awarded the plaintiff $9,654,551. No negligence was found against Pennsylvania Hospital.

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