Premature discharge leads to $4 million settlement

A North Carolina hospital will pay $4 million to avoid a malpractice trial on allegations that a baby suffered cerebral palsy and other neurological problems stemming from kernicterus, or severe jaundice. Durham County Hospital Corp. reached a settlement that will be put into a trust to provide a lifetime payout of $13 million, according to Durham attorney Tracy Lischer, JD.

The lawsuit alleged that three physicians and Durham Regional Hospital were negligent for discharging the child too early — two days after a premature birth. The kernicterus could have been diagnosed and treated if the baby had been hospitalized longer, the plaintiffs claimed.

The child was discharged without any treatment for jaundice and without an appointment for follow-up, Lischer says. Kernicterus is a neurological syndrome caused by severe jaundice, and the child will suffer permanently from cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities as well as impaired speech, vision, and hearing.