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Family Sues over Wrong Diagnosis

A family is suing several Gainesville physicians claiming their wrong diagnosis caused the enduring physical trauma of their son.

Clay, and Tracie Smith are suing physicians Cathryn Finch, Charles Jones, Jeff Elder, and Todd Jordan, claiming that their misdiagnosis of their son’s Rocky Mountain spotted fever caused his brain injury.

The family seeks $3.8 Million in damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and future lost wages.

The Misdiagnosis

According to court records, Justin Reece Smith was taken to Gainesville’s Pediatric Associates in 2003 at the age of 13. He had a high fever and a headache. The family told the doctor that Justin had recently been bitten by a tick, but the doctor diagnosed the boy with a virus and sent him home.

The illness grew worse over the following days, until his parents took him to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in Egleston, where the doctors correctly diagnosed the boy with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Justin was hospitalized for 12 days. According to his parents, he suffered brain injuries which have resulted in permanent behavioral and emotional problems.

“Justin is never going to get a day’s vacation from this,” the family’s lawyer David S. Bills said. “He’s going to need a lot of medical treatment for the rest of his life.”

The family’s claim that the physicians should have made the correct diagnosis sooner was corroborated by an infectious disease expert from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill named David Weber.

Bills claims the doctors didn’t meet the standards of care by failing to diagnose and treat the disease correctly.

“This case is clear-cut,” Bills said. “It’s egregious, and there is no defense. The defendants want to deny liability, they want to deny accountability, and they won’t take any responsibility.”

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