On August 24, 2012, a Staten Island, New York medical malpractice jury awarded more than $100 million in favor of a now-seventeen-year-old woman who has cerebral palsy due to a brain injury that the jury found was the result of the medical negligence in caring for her mother while she was pregnant that led to the woman’s premature birth. The woman and her twin sister (who did not suffer the same injuries or medical problems as her sister) were born three months early, weighing just one pound, twelve ounces at birth.
The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the woman’s mother went to a local hospital but that the hospital’s medical staff failed to recognize that the mother was having contractions before she went into labor and they failed to take necessary steps to prevent the early delivery of her babies.
The medical malpractice jury found that the hospital was responsible for damages in the amount of $17 million for past pain and suffering and an additional $60 million for future pain and suffering. The jury’s award also included future medical expenses and lost wages, which result in the total jury award being in excess of $100 million. The jury found that the two defendant doctors were not liable for the woman’s injuries.
The hospital has vowed to appeal despite being responsible to pay only the amount of the available insurance coverage (approximately $16 million) because the hospital had filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010.
After the medical malpractice jury’s verdict was rendered, the woman was quoted as saying, “I watch my twin sister go out with her friends to parties and stuff. I don’t get to do as much as the average teenager. The award will help me do whatever I want to do in life and give me a little more freedom.”
The woman’s 53-year-old retired father stated, “Stephanie’s life is a pretty lonely one. She doesn’t have a lot of friends.”
The hospital’s attorney stated after the verdict that “This was an extremely premature baby who weighed 1 pound, 12 ounces at birth. The St Vincent’s doctors, nurses and staff managed a very difficult and challenging situation appropriately. This child’s unfortunate injuries were not caused by any shortcomings in the care rendered at St Vincent’s.”
It is not unusual for medical malpractice verdicts rendered in favor of the plaintiffs in cases involving birth injuries to be in the millions of dollars because the cost of necessary medical care over the lifetime of the injured child is typically massive, the lost wages claim for a lifetime of being unable to work is usually tremendous, and the pain, suffering, and mental anguish of the parents and the child over the course of the child’s lifetime are often enormous.
Some may say that it is unfair to burden a doctor and other health providers with the potential for such large verdicts against them if they are found to have committed medical negligence and that their negligent acts or negligent omissions caused permanent injuries to a newborn.
However, no one should lose sight of the most important fact regarding medical malpractice claims involving the birth of children: the negligent health care providers were in the position to avoid the consequences of their careless actions if they had simply followed the standard of care established by their colleagues — no negligence, no injuries, no damages, no problems.
If your child suffered serious or permanent injuries during labor or delivery and you suspect that medical negligence may be a cause of the injuries, you should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
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