At the end of June, 2016, Lisa Ewing was awarded the largest birth injury related verdict ever seen in Cook County, Illinois. A panel of 12 jurors has validated allegations that staff members within the University of Chicago Medical Center committed approximately 20 errors that resulted in brain damage to Lisa's now 12 year old son, Isaiah. The $53 million verdict represents the conclusion of a lawsuit filed in 2013 and includes $28.8 million to cover future expenses related to Isaiah's requirement for around the clock care, $7.2 million for future medical expenses and nearly $14 million for disfigurement, loss of a normal life, a shortened life expectancy, pain and suffering and emotional distress. The total amount of the verdict is close to the county's all time medical malpractice record of $55.5 million dating back to the year 2000.
When Lisa Ewing entered the University of Chicago Medical Center in April of 2004 at two in the morning at around 40 weeks pregnant and in labor, she expressed concerns that her baby had been moving less frequently than she'd grown accustomed to. During those wee hours of the morning, the hospital was staffed by student residents said to be unfamiliar with emergency situations. Although tests promptly revealed fetal distress and validated Lisa's concerns, she remained virtually unattended in her hospital bed while her unborn child experienced a slow suffocation. It was not until nearly two o'clock the next afternoon that an emergency cesarean section was finally ordered. Lisa's son Isaiah was not breathing at birth and was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he received life support and remained for the next four weeks. Doctors diagnosed the cause of Isaiah's birth injuries as hypoxia, although his mother Lisa was said to never have been told who was ultimately responsible for the damage.
Although she experienced an event free pregnancy, the failure to properly monitor Lisa and her unborn child led to the lack of awareness (or perhaps a lack of understanding) of an abnormal fetal heart rate pattern which warranted a timely cesarean section. Additional errors included the inability of staff members to follow a proper chain of command and the failure to obtain an accurate reading of cord blood gases. Lisa's son Isaiah, who is now 12, sufferers from extreme cerebral palsy (CP) and is confined to a wheelchair. He is completely dependent on his mother to feed and clothe him and is unable to form complete sentences.
Even though a spokesperson for the University of Chicago Medical Center has stated that the hospital expresses "great sympathy" for Lisa and Isaiah, the defendants have never accepted responsibility for his birth injuries. Instead, they claim that an infection (which both mother and child were receiving treatment for) was the cause of Isaiah's CP, despite hospital records which indicated the initial recorded cause as fetal hypoxia. Legal representatives for the hospital presented the defense that Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels, yet Lisa's lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger of Detroit and Jack Beam of Chicago, stated that records from the hospital's neonatal unit clearly indicate Isaiah was born with birth asphyxia (hypoxia). Lisa's lawyers further explained how Isaiah had essentially been suffocating during the 12 hour period while she remained in her hospital bed under the impression that she and her baby were being properly cared for. Mr. Fieger claimed that Isaiah's lack of oxygen at birth is in clear contradiction to the hospital's defense and stated that numerous doctors who have examined Isaiah over the years have all come to the same independent conclusion.
Before the case was turned over to the jury, the defendants had filed for a mistrial based on alleged misconduct by one of Lisa's lawyers, Mr. Fieger. While they claimed it was impossible to obtain a fair trial in the presence of Mr. Fieger's extreme tactics of propaganda, Cook County Circuit Judge John Kirby dismissed the request, stating that, while he agreed that Mr. Fieger's language was "like something out of George Orwell's '1984' ", he could not dismiss the entire case based on this issue alone. The defendants plan to file post-trial motions and are willing to file an appeal to the appellate court, if necessary.