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Trial starts for man who claims pink eye misdiagnosis

Jury selection began Monday in the civil trial of a Pasco County man who claims he is disabled because of a misdiagnosis at a hospital emergency room.

According to court documents, Arcadio Hernandez, then 17, was suffering severe pain in and around his eye when he went to the emergency room at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital on Madison Street in New Port Richey on July 17, 2010.

A physician's assistant, Bethany Berghoffer, diagnosed Hernandez with conjunctivitis, commonly known as "pink eye," and the supervising physician, Helene Harper, signed off on it, court records show.

Hernandez was given a prescription for antibiotics and sent on his way, records show.

Hernandez's lawyer, Steven Deutsch, said Hernandez had a brain bleed and was permanently disabled as a result of the misdiagnosis.

Deutsch seeks damages in excess of $15,000 from the hospital, the two women, and the companies contracted to do work in the ER by the hospital.

In a deposition, Berghoffer said she was not certified to write prescriptions at the time of the incident. However, she claims she only recommended a prescription to treat pink eye and Harper, her supervising physician, had the authority to approve it.

She said she recommended the prescription for antibiotics because she was concerned that Hernandez had an infection, and a test to make sure would take up to 48 hours.

She did not recommend any additional tests.

In the courtroom, lawyers for both sides questioned potential jurors about whether they'd have prejudice against either Hernandez or the hospital.

Hernandez sat on one side of the courtroom with his lawyers.

He walked with a silver cane and moved slowly when he got up to introduce himself to the jury. The fingers of his left hand appeared to be immobile. He wore jeans and a polo shirt.

On the other side, there were so many lawyers around the table that Berghoffer and Harper had to sit behind them.

The trial is expected to last two weeks, with opening statements Tuesday morning. Both sides plan to call numerous experts, as well as medical staff working the day of the incident.

Trial starts for man who claims pink eye misdiagnosis 12/02/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 2, 2013 8:14pm]
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