In what is believed to be the biggest birth injury verdict ever in Chicago’s Cook County, a jury has ordered the University of Chicago Medical Center to pay $53 million in a case involving a 12-year-old boy who was born with a serious brain injury.
The award to Lisa and Isaiah Ewing includes $28.8 million for future caretaking expenses, according to information provided by their lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger, JD, of Detroit and Jack Beam, JD, of Chicago. The boy has severe cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.
Lisa Ewing had arrived at the hospital when she was 40 weeks into the pregnancy, and she was concerned that the baby was not moving as much as before. The lawsuit filed in 2013 alleged 20 errors by doctors and nurses at the hospital, including failures to carefully monitor mother and baby, perform a timely cesarean section, follow a chain of command, obtain accurate cord blood gases, and be aware of abnormal fetal heart rate patterns that indicated distress to the baby, including hypoxia, or a drop in the supply of oxygen.
At a news conference after the verdict, Fieger said the University of Chicago had been “completely unapologetic, and even though the evidence was overwhelming that they caused Isaiah’s brain damage, they refused to accept responsibility.”
Attorneys for the hospital argued that the child’s injuries resulted from an infection and that he was born with normal blood oxygen levels. Fieger said at the news conference that the hospital’s medical records showed that the baby suffered hypoxia, “yet the University of Chicago and its lawyers came to court and tried to tell the jury that their own records were false, that their own records were mistaken, and that Isaiah really had a phantom infection that infected his brain that they could never have known about.”
Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong issued a statement saying the hospital had “great sympathy” for the family but disagreed strongly with the jury’s decision. The hospital had filed for a mistrial and complained that Fieger’s “closing argument shattered the line between zealous advocacy and improper prejudicial comments, rendering it impossible for defendant to receive a fair trial. He also prejudicially argued that the defendant’s case was built on a falsehood and proceeded to equate defendant’s conduct and testimony of its witnesses with the propaganda techniques notoriously and unmistakably associated with Nazi Germany.”