A jury in Illinois has awarded a near-record $53 million to a young boy born with a serious brain injury after his mother says he suffered 12 hours of fetal distress during her full-term delivery.
The damage award was announced following a month-long trial in which the boy’s mother and legal guardian sued the hospital and several doctors for not sooner recognizing and acting on the obvious signs of fetal distress her unborn child was experiencing. The appropriate course of action, she contended, would have been an emergency c-section as soon as she was admitted to the hospital. This should have been clear, she said, as soon as she was hooked up to the fetal monitoring unit after she reported that her child had stopped moving inside her womb.
Unfortunately, it was around 2 a.m. when she arrived at the hospital and only student residents were on staff to care for her. Plaintiff attorneys presented evidence indicating those residents were either occupied, sleeping or unable to fully grasp or adequately respond to the severity of her situation. For 12 hours, her lawyers explained to jurors, her son was slowly suffocating.
When he was born around 12:40 p.m. the next day, he wasn’t breathing. He was immediately rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he was ultimately revived. However, he had to be placed on life support and remained in critical condition for a full month after his birth.
Although defense attorneys contended the boy and his mother were both treated for and suffered an infection prior to his birth – another factor that is known to cause cerebral palsy and other birth injuries – plaintiff lawyers pointed out that every doctor who had treated him diagnosed the cause of his condition as hypoxia, asphyxia and lack of oxygen at birth. The doctors who delivered the boy at first told his mother it was hypoxia too, but later changed their position to say it was something totally different.
Plaintiff attorneys also pointed out there are no records that exist to support the assertion of what he called a “secret infection.”
Although $53 million undoubtedly seems like a huge sum, one must consider the profound effect this negligence had on this boy and his mother. He has essentially lost any opportunity for a normal life. He requires assistance to eat, bathe himself, dress himself and use the restroom. His treating physicians say he will require care for the rest of his life. His mother, too, has lost the opportunity to have a normal relationship with her child. Her role is primarily one of caregiver. She takes care of all his daily needs and has not married or had other children.
Jurors awarded $2.7 million for disfigurement, $2.7 million for loss of a normal life, $2.7 million for reduced life expectancy, $2.7 million for past and future pain and suffering and emotional distress, $350,000 for past medical expenses, $7.25 million for future medical expenses, $29 million for future care-taking expenses and $2.7 million for future loss of earning capacity. So while the damage award is significant, it is by no means a windfall. It takes into consideration what it will cost to care for this boy for the duration of his life, estimated to be another 65 years.
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Family awarded $53M 12 years after son allegedly suffers brain damage at birth, June 30, 2016, By Laura Podesta, ABC-7
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