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Jury gives $53 million award in medical malpractice birth case

After thousands of past cases brought by parents of children suffering brain injury and/or other traumas at birth, our medical care industry seems to be no closer to figuring out how to stop medical negligence during the birth process. The cases are well-documented in California and every other state. Medical malpractice is committed each time that the hospital fails to give the mother and the baby the minimum standard of care that the profession recognizes under the circumstances.

The apparent lack of improvement is more remarkable because some of the largest settlements and jury verdicts have to do with babies who are born with brain damage. Most of these appear to be due to oxygen deprivation at some point prior to and during the delivery. The most recent case involves a jury verdict for $53 million in favor of a mother and her son, who is now 12 years old.

The child was born with cerebral palsy and will have a life of severe disability that will require round-the-clock assistance. The defendants were the University of Chicago Hospital and various doctors and hospital staff. The main theory of the case was that the staff ignored the mother when she came into the hospital with pain and apparent fetal distress.

The mother claimed that she laid for hours in need of an emergency cesarean section, and that the staff did nothing to diagnose the condition. Presumably, proper testing and examinations would have revealed fetal distress and the need for an immediate C-section to rescue the baby. The hospital issued a post-verdict statement insisting that the child's cerebral palsy predated the hospital's involvement.

The hospital claims that the mother had an infection that was a precursor to cerebral palsy and that the defendants' experts testified to that fact. The problem with that assertion is, of course, that the plaintiff put on its own expert witnesses supporting the plaintiff's theory of the case. The jury, acting within its duty to determine believability of witnesses, believed the plaintiff's experts and entered an award for medical malpractice accordingly. Based on the reported details, a similar finding could be made under California law.  

Source:, "Family awarded $53M 12 years after son allegedly suffers brain damage at birth", Laura Podesta, June 30, 2016

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