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SUN SENTINEL, January 13, 2012

Miramar teen who lost limbs wins malpractice suit

by Robert Nolin

A Miramar teen who lost all four limbs as a result of a vaccination error 13 years ago won a $12.6 million medical malpractice award Friday against the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

The amount the teen will receive, however, will nearly be cut in half, as jurors deemed her mother was 40 percent at fault.

The verdict was handed down after a five-week trial and three days of deliberations in Miami-Dade Circuit Court before Judge William Thomas. The award is expected to be appealed.

Attorneys said Shaniah Rolle suffered intestinal problems that caused her spleen, along with other organs, to be removed as a newborn. Because the spleen acts as a filter against bacteria and viruses, she had to be administered medicine that would prevent infections.

In October 1998, her mother, Queen Seriah Azulla Dabrio, took the child to the medical school's pediatric unit for a checkup. A medical assistant injected Shaniah with a special vaccination designed to protect against infection for people without spleens.

The vaccine, however, had expired five months earlier. "It was a medication error," said Fort Lauderdale attorney Crane Johnstone, who represented Shaniah.

Eight months later, Shaniah became seriously ill and was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. She had a bacterial infection throughout her body that caused blood clots to form in her arms and legs. The infection led to gangrene in her limbs, and doctors amputated her arms and legs above the joints.

"She developed the very disease they were supposed to inoculate her against," Johnstone said. Her suit was filed 10 years ago.

UM's attorneys, Christopher Knight of Miami and John Hall of Atlanta, argued that Shaniah would have contracted her illness despite being given the expired vaccine. Her mother, an expert testified, failed to give Shaniah enough medication to help stave off the infection.

That was the basis for jurors assigning 40 percent negligence to Dabrio. The judge, according to the verdict form, "will make an appropriate reduction in the damages awarded."

Dr. Jeffrey Bosco, who treated Shaniah, was found by jurors to be 5 percent at fault in the case. Several other doctors named in the suit were found not liable.

UM's medical school declined to comment on the case. Fort Lauderdale attorney Charles Patrick, who also represented Shaniah, said he expects the medical school to appeal the verdict.

The lawyers would not make Shaniah or her mother available for comment pending that appeal, Patrick said, should they make statements that might affect the outcome of that litigation. Dabrio could not be reached Friday night.

Shaniah, outfitted with prosthetics, has pursued a normal existence since her amputations, Johnstone said. She's on the cheerleading squad at Miramar High School.

"She's a miraculous kid," he said. "She's probably going to live another 50 or 60 years."


Sheldon J. Schlesinger, P.A. represents clients throughout the state of Florida including the cities of Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Carol City, Cooper City, Coral Gables, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Hollywood, Jupiter, Lake Worth, Miramar, Miami, Oakland Park, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Springs, Pompano Beach, and Rivera Beach

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