Jury Awards $53M Due to Brain Injuries Caused by Errors at the University of Chicago Medical Center

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.

Birth Injuries Resulted in Isaiah's Severe Cerebral Palsy

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.

A Trouble Free Pregnancy Followed by Medical Malpractice During Labor

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.

No Apologies After Twelve Years

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.

Judge Dismisses Request for a Mistrial

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.

 

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