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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Local Review

County May Offer Patient $1.3-Million Settlement

May 01, 1999

LOS ANGELES — A county committee Monday will consider recommending spending $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who left County-USC Medical Center's emergency room a quadriplegic after being taken there for treatment of injuries suffered in a car crash.

After a day full of treatments, medical staff noted on Jose Escoto-Perez's chart that the patient's worsening condition may have stemmed from a decision to immobilize him with a "halo," a metal ring around the neck screwed into the skull, a county memo said.

But that entry was swiftly blacked out by another employee.

Other errors, according to a memo to the county claims board, were that a CT scan of Escoto-Perez's vertebrae was not examined before deciding to screw the metal ring around his neck and that he went for more than seven hours without receiving anti-inflammatory drugs.

The blacking out of the medical record is especially problematic, the memo states.

"The accusation of improper immobilization techniques . . . and the subsequent attempt to obscure the accusation will present the county with an insurmountable problem at trial," wrote a county lawyer, predicting a verdict of up to $6 million if the case goes before a jury.

A spokeswoman for County-USC Medical Center did not return a phone call Friday.

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