Chatham Schools faces lawsuit after parent claims 2016 medication error

BY CASEY MANN, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/7/19

The mother of a Siler City Elementary student has filed a lawsuit against Chatham County Schools after the student was allegedly administered the wrong medication by a school employee, resulting in the child receiving emergency treatment at Chatham Memorial Hospital.

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Chatham Schools faces lawsuit after parent claims 2016 medication error

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SILER CITY — The mother of a Siler City Elementary student has filed a lawsuit against Chatham County Schools after the student was allegedly administered the wrong medication by a school employee, resulting in the child receiving emergency treatment at Chatham Memorial Hospital.

The suit was filed last month by L’Oreal Jones, which addresses a Jan. 27, 2016, incident — when the child in question was in first grade — and seeks damages in excess of $25,000 from the Siler City Elementary’s principal Larry Savage, the Chatham County Board of Education, and former Siler City Elementary employee Maria Corona.

Jason N. Tuttle, an attorney for Everett, Gaskins and Hancock in Raleigh, is representing Jones. The student is named as a plaintiff in the suit, but the News + Record has chosen to withhold her name at the present time because of her age.

According to the complaint, the student was prescribed Methylphenidate (also known as Methylin) for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and was instead given a dose of Midazolam, a form of the sedative benzodiazepine, at noon on the day in question. Jones had previously completed the county’s required forms for dispensing medication during school hours the year before. The form, included in the filing as exhibit A in the filing, notes that the student was supposed to receive 2.5 milliliters of the ADHD medicine. The suit alleges that she was administered 10 mg of the benzodiazepine by Corona instead of Methylin. At the time, Corona was serving as a PowerSchool Data Manager but she is no longer employed by the school district, according to Chatham County Schools Public Relations Coordinator John McCann.

According the website Drugbank.com, Midazolam is a short-acting hypnotic-sedative drug with anxiolytic, muscle relaxant, anticonvulsant, sedative, hypnotic, and amnesic properties. “This drug is unique from others in this class,” the site says, “due to its rapid onset of effects and short duration of action.” It’s a Class IV controlled substance that has been used in dentistry, cardiac surgery, endoscopic procedures, as pre-anesthetic medication, and as an adjunct to local anesthesia, according to the site, as well as used to relieve anxiety.

According to the filing, soon after the medicine was administered, the student noted the medicine “tasted funny” and became “lethargic and began to drool.”

The school dialed the 911 emergency number, describing a “sick” person at the school, then contacted Jones to notify her that her daughter had received the wrong medicine, the complaint notes. Jones was able to get to the school and accompany her daughter in the ambulance to Chatham Memorial Hospital where she was treated. The suit states that the student not only required medical attention at the time, but suffered physical pain and mental suffering.

The suit also alleges that school employees failed to properly document the medication log required to track all medications administered to students. The complaint includes a copy of the log as exhibit B. The document appears to only have the student’s medications logged through mid-January, with the about a week of entries missing.

The complaint is requesting damages from Chatham County Board of Education, Savage, and Corona individually for an amount in excess of $25,000 each for medical expenses and “sustained damages.”

According to Chatham County’s Clerk of Court Dana Hackney, the case was filed and summonses were issued but no court date has been scheduled. Each of the defendants will have 30 days from the date the summons were served to provide an answer to the complaint.

The Chatham County Board of Education referred the News + Record to its attorney in this case, Stephen Rawson of the Tharrington Smith law firm in Raleigh, who is reviewing the complaint.

“As a general matter, we don’t comment on pending litigation,” Rawson said. “Obviously, Chatham County Schools takes this matter very seriously.”

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