Flu victim’s family sues Hoboken University Medical Center

Suit claims negligence led to six-year-old's death

The hospital is accused of not using standard medical procedures.
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The hospital is accused of not using standard medical procedures.

The North Bergen family of a six-year-old girl is suing Hoboken University Medical Center, CarePoint Health, and several physicians for negligence after the death of their daughter.

When Nevaeh Hernandez arrived home from school on Feb. 9, 2018, with a headache and 104-degree fever, her parents took her to Hoboken University Medical Center to be examined, according to the lawsuit.

According to the family, she waited for more than three hours to see a doctor. Once she was seen by a nurse practitioner, she was tested for the flu and strep, testing negative for both. She was given Motrin for the fever, discharged, and sent home with no diagnosis.

Her symptoms worsened overnight, so her mother Stephanie Conteron, looking for help, took her to a different hospital.

Within an hour of arriving at Hackensack University Medical Center, she was diagnosed with the H1N1 strain of influenza, according to the family’s former attorney. Her fever peaked at 106 degrees. Nevaeh, who had a history of seizures when spiking a fever, suffered four seizures and slipped into a coma.

She would never again return to kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School in North Bergen.

Nevaeh Hernandez died at 10:41 a.m. three days later on Feb. 12, 2018. She was six.

 Alleged negligence

The suit alleges medical professionals at Hoboken University Medical Center did not follow standard medical procedures, which allegedly led to Nevaeh’s death.

“The defendants, each and every one of them, were negligent, careless, reckless, and unskillful in failing to properly diagnose and care for Decedent Nevaeh Hernandez’s influenza; failing to follow standard accepted medical procedures; failing to timely and appropriately diagnose, treat and/or vaccinate Nevaeh Hernandez’s condition of H1N1 influenza causing, ultimately, her untimely death,” alleges the suit, which also claims that due to this negligence and carelessness, Nevaeh “suffered severe, painful, and permanent injuries, emotional distress and mental anguish.”

The 14-page suit filed in Essex County Superior Court this month, requests a trial by jury and seeks damages, interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs of the suit.

No court dates have been scheduled yet because the discovery process is currently underway.

The flu

At the time of her death, Nevaeh was the second child in New Jersey to die from that year’s H1N1 flu epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, from Oct. 1, 2019, through Feb. 1, 2020, there have been between 22 and 31 million people diagnosed with the flu. Between 12,000 and 30,000 deaths were caused by the flu.

In New Jersey, the CDC has declared the outbreak “widespread,” and two children have died in the state so far.

According to the CDC, those most at risk of dying from the flu are babies, children, seniors, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system.

Since Nevaeh’s death, her parents, Stephanie Conteron and Gabriel Hernandez, have organized a remembrance walk at Braddock Park in North Bergen to raise awareness about how fast-acting and serious the flu can be for children.

Participants in the walk raise funds for the End-FLUenza project, which promotes awareness of the importance of getting the most recent flu vaccination every year, as well as educating children and adults on safety measures known to decrease the chance of spreading the virus.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months or older get an annual flu vaccine. To stop the spread of flu, it recommends people avoid close contact with sick people; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover coughs and sneezes; and wash hands often with soap and water.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.