February 27, 2014

Three Main Mechanisms for Birth Brain Injuries

by Levin & Perconti

One of the most horrifying experiences that could happen to a new mother and father is complications during the birth of their child. When those complications lead to the child suffering from a brain injury, the effects will last a lifetime. There are three main causes, or mechanisms, by which brain injuries occur in babies either during or shortly after labor and delivery. These include, insufficient oxygen to the brain, trauma and reduced glucose.

Insufficient Oxygen
Brain injury due to insufficient oxygen supplied to the brain is a frequent cause of brain injury during birth. There are many ways in which oxygen deprivation can occur during labor and delivery. While a baby is still in the womb, the baby receives oxygenated blood from the mother through the umbilical cord. If anything happens to the baby’s oxygen supply, brain damage can result. Umbilical cord compression, penta abruption (when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall prematurely) and ruptures of the uterus can all deprive a baby of oxygenated blood thereby causing brain damage.

When insufficient oxygen is getting to the brain, the injuries that result are compound themselves and exacerbate the injury. Insufficient oxygen to the brain causes neurons in the brain to die and breakdown, thus leaking the contents of the cell into the brain. When many neurons die in unison from insufficient oxygenation, a flood of broken down cells causes brain swelling. The swelling in turn causes compression of other blood vessels in the brain thus depriving other parts of the brain of oxygenated blood as well.

Trauma to the baby can occur in many ways during birth. Most commonly, the delivering doctor or midwife improperly uses delivery equipment, such as forceps or a vacuum extractor, which can cause too much force to be exerted on the baby’s soft skull. Sometimes labor itself can cause trauma to the baby’s head, particularly in cases where the baby is large compared to the mother’s pelvis or if the delivery takes a long time, thus exposing the baby’s head to prolonged periods of compression from contractions during the labor process.

Brain injury trauma can cause contusions and/or bleeds to occur in the brain, along with damage to blood vessels in the brain, and skull fractures. Any number of these injuries can further cause blood clots to form in the brain, which can lead to the baby having a stroke. Baby strokes, of course, lead to further brain damage.

Reduced Glucose
Complicated or unduly long deliveries can cause an unsafe drop in the baby’s blood glucose levels, which can cause brain injury if left untreated. Newborns’ blood glucose levels should be checked as soon as possible after a long delivery.

Contacting a Birth Injury Attorney
Many complications can arise during a delivery, some of which can cause a brain injury to your child. If your child has been injured during the birth process, an experienced birth injury attorney can help you determine who should be held accountable for your family’s pain and suffering. Please contact us today to learn more

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February 24, 2014

Birth-Related Medical Malpractice in Illinois

by Levin & Perconti

Medical malpractice arises when a doctor, hospital, nurse or other medical professional fails to provide reasonable care, i.e., acts negligently. When negligence occurs during or around the time of pregnancy or birth of a baby, it may be grounds for a birth-related medical malpractice claim. There are several situations that can bring about a birth-related medical malpractice claim. Below is an overview of the types of claims, which may be brought.

Wrongful Birth/Wrongful Pregnancy
In some states, there is a difference between a wrongful pregnancy claim and a wrongful birth claim. In Illinois, however, the state Supreme Court has held that the terms are disjunctive and are one in the same claim: wrongful birth.

In situations where parents have attempted to avoid becoming pregnant, or want to terminate a pregnancy (in states where this is permitted) and yet the attempt fails due to a doctor’s negligence, it is considered a wrongful pregnancy. The parents end up with a child they did not want to have. This is a wrongful pregnancy. Wrongful pregnancy claims usually arise when there was negligence during sterilization procedures. In the case of a wrongful birth, the parents want to avoid becoming pregnant altogether, or want to terminate a pregnancy because they have discovered that their child has a high likelihood, or near certainty, of being born with a severe disability as determined by genetic counseling. The parents end up with a severely disabled child.

Negligent Prenatal Care
During pregnancy, negligent care provided by the doctor or obstetrician can affect the baby that is in gestation or the mother, or even both. Misdiagnosis, or failure to diagnose medical conditions during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, hypoglycemia or anemia can all impact the mother and the baby’s development. Similarly, a failure to identify an ectopic pregnancy in the mother, or birth defects in the baby, is negligence. Failure to diagnosis contagious diseases that the mother has that she could spread to the baby is also negligent.

Child Birth Injuries Due to Negligence
Physical injuries sustained by the mother or child during the delivery of the child is likely the result of negligence. The more common medical errors that occur during childbirth include, for example, failure to respond appropriately and immediately to fetal distress, ordering a cesarean section when it is necessary and appropriate, improper/incompetent use of delivery tools, such as vacuum extractors and forceps, as well as failing to identify or anticipate complications that could arise due to the baby’s large size, the mother’s small size, or complications involving a tangled umbilical cord.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you, your loved one, or your child has been injured during pregnancy or childbirth due to the negligence of a doctor, obstetrician, midwife, or other medical care provider and you believe that you have a birth-related medical malpractice claim, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney with the experience to get you the compensation that you deserve. Many complications can arise during a delivery, some of which can cause a brain injury to your child. Please contact us today to learn more.

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January 18, 2014

Controversy Over Pain and Suffering Caps

by Levin & Perconti

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, like many lawsuits grounded in tort claims, judges and juries are empowered to award both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages generally represent losses of income, costs of medical expenses both past and future, compensation for one’s lost ability to early a living on top of losing their normal income, as well as other more easily measurable financial losses as a result of the malpractice. Non-economic damages are awarded for pain and suffering and loss of companionship among other not-so-easily measurable injuries resulting from malpractice.

Some state legislatures have capped the amount of non-economic damages that patients can be awarded, while others do not. Limits on pain and suffering awards are very controversial, with some clamoring for tort reform to protect medical providers from staggeringly high damage awards, while others believe it is up to judges or in most cases juries, as finders of fact, to make that determination on a case-by-case basis without limits.

Cases Spurn Effort to Eliminate Caps
The awful case of Jahi McMath has made headlines and gripped much of the country in early 2014. Jahi is a 13 year old Bay Area girl who was recently declared brain dead after a botched tonsillectomy. One would not normally anticipate a common enough procedure to result in one’s death, but complications arose in which after the surgery to take out Jahi’s tonsils, uvula and adenoids, she went into cardiac arrest that resulted in no blood flow or activity in her brain in the areas that control breathing. Doctors declared her brain-dead. The case has raised a number of issues, such as the question parents’ rights over their children when it comes to the decision to remove brain-dead patients from ventilators and life support. Another issue that arose in recent weeks has been the issue of caps on damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice claims.

In California, where Jahi ‘s tragedy occurred, state law places a $250,000 ceiling on pain and suffering awards. However, given the horrible circumstances of Jahi’s case, a political movement has already begun to raise that cap. A nonprofit organization called Consumer Watchdog, in conjunction with California trial lawyers, has proposed that the legislature lift the cap to allow for great damages awards where circumstances warrant. Earlier in 2013, this issue had also been raised after an infant, Mia Chavez, died from whooping cough in 2010 after doctors, in spite of multiple exams of the 6-week old, failed to detect and diagnose the ailment before it was too late.

As has happened in the aftermath of Jahi’s case, trial lawyers and the Consumer Watchdog group pushed for elimination of the quarter million dollar cap after little Mia’s death. Many have seen these initiatives as heartless exploitation of the tragic deaths of children, while these advocates argue that a cap inappropriately places limits on the value of an individual’s life, which should be under the purview of judges and juries.

The Status of Caps in Illinois
Here in Illinois, in a well-known 2010 case, Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down a 2005 law that capped damages for non-economic losses like pain and suffering at $500,000 for doctors, and $1 million for hospitals. The decision was premised on the view that the judiciary alone has the ability to set damage awards, and that any such involvement by the legislature is unconstitutional. Thus currently there is no limit in Illinois on pain and suffering damages. This will nevertheless be an interesting issue to follow both nationwide as well as within Illinois should there be further attempts to adjust. If you are involved in or believe you have a medical malpractice case, it is important to remember this vital decision.

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January 16, 2014

The Costs of Losing a Medical Malpractice Case

by Levin & Perconti

To the uninitiated, many think of a medical malpractice lawsuit as a claim brought for the purpose of holding a provider accountable, as well as obtaining economic and/or non-economic damages. Presuming victory, these damages will also include attorney’s fees, which for the plaintiff are contingent upon victory in the case. On top of damages, costs will also include payments and incidental expenses (such as travel, food, lodging) for expert witnesses who are compensated for their time and expertise. Additionally, the loser may have to pay defendant’s litigation costs and fees should the defendant prevail on the merits. In these cases, litigation can be a risky venture if the plaintiff fails. Not only do they fail to hold the other party accountable and reap an award, but they may have to pay the other party’s costs on top of their own. This also adds insult to injury, when the family still must deal with the emotional pain of injury or death to a loved one that can never be remedied.

A Staggering Bill in Colorado
In Colorado, a judge ordered a family to pay $340,000 in legal fees for a defendant hospital after losing in their case against it. During the birth of their child, the child was deprived of oxygen while still in the womb. The child was not breathing and failed to exhibit a heart rate for a stretch of thirteen minutes, which resulted in permanent brain damage. The child, now four years old, will always require medical care and assistance. His parents sued the hospital, arguing that the doctor and nurses failed to diagnose when there were indications of oxygen deprivation. The family lost, however, when a jury found for the hospital.

Subsequent to the jury finding, the hospital file with the court for the plaintiffs to pay the costs of certain legal fees totaling $340,000, to which the judge agreed and ordered that those costs be paid. Colorado law permits but does not require a defendant to recover costs from a losing plaintiff. These expenses included “coffee, snacks, and small food items like ice cream and frozen yogurt for witnesses and defendants . . . dinners and room service fees, including one witness’s expenses that totaled $999.06” as well as a witness’s car service and airline expenses. The defendant’s attorneys even tacked on $250 for a fine incurred by a nurse while smoking in her hotel room, although this was subsequently removed from the bill in response to objections. The family told local news that they anticipate filing for bankruptcy as a result of this enormous debt.

This case is a sad but cautionary tale of the importance of understanding the implications and all possible outcomes of a medical malpractice litigation. In many situations parties will handle their own attorneys fees regardless of who wins, but some states do allow for recovery of fees by a winning party in different circumstances. It is vital that prospective plaintiffs evaluate all aspects of a case, and be aware of the risks and not only the potential awards.

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January 13, 2014

$28 Million Judgment in Birth Injury Federal Tort Claims Act Case

by Levin & Perconti

A couple successfully sued an Illinois hospital and several doctors and nurses for a severe brain injury that occurred during the caesarian section of their son. The couple was awarded $28 million in a judgment entered by a federal judge.

The Federal Tort Claims Act
While the vast majority of birth injury cases are litigated in state court, the Federal Tort Claims Act provides an alternative avenue for families seeking compensation in traumatic birth injury or brain injury cases. The Federal Tort Claims Act, or FTCA, allows plaintiffs to sue the United States for torts such as negligence that are committed by individuals working for the United States. These cases must be conducted in federal court, but the federal judge applies the tort law of the state where the act occurred. While the United States usually holds sovereign immunity and cannot be sued, the FTCA is an exception to sovereign immunity and treats the United States much like a private citizen in that it can be liable for torts committed by those acting on its behalf.

Brain Injury Occurs Due to Oxygen Deprivation Pre-Birth
On July 30, 2009, around 2am, Patoya Bryant, while 37 weeks pregnant, was admitted to Memorial Hospital of Carbondale with pregnancy complications. Multiple times that night, the fetal heart rate was charted, and the fetal heart rate patterns were found to be regular. An ultrasound examination was then conducted by an obstetrician, and the fetus was found to be healthy.

In the morning, the fetal heart rate began to show signs of serious issues. The obstetricians continued to monitor the heart rate throughout the morning. As the beats per minute progressively worsened, signaling oxygen deprivation, the doctors decided to conduct an emergency caesarean section. However, the doctors waited until the morning of July 31, 2009, over 30 hours after Ms. Bryant was first admitted, to perform the caesarean.

Ms. Bryant’s child, Sean, was delivered with no heart rate. After 10 minutes of chest compressions, intubation, and epinephrine, Sean was revived. However, he suffered a severe brain injury due to oxygen deprivation prior to birth that resulted in a life-long disability. Sean must receive around-the-clock care as he is unable to take care of himself due to the brain injury.

Ms. Bryant and spouse Sean Cobbs Sr. sued the hospital, the obstetricians, and the nurses under the FTCA. Bryant and Cobbs argued that the injury occurred at the hospital, using fetal heart rate and respiratory calculations to show that the brain injury occurred 40 minutes prior to birth.

The family settled with the hospital and nurses for $1,600,000, and on December 23, 2013, Illinois federal District Court Judge Herndon entered a judgment for $28 million against the obstetricians. The award included $3,216,827 for lost earnings; $15,165,708 for future medical expenses; $231,713 for past medical expenses; $5,000,000 for loss of quality of life; $3,000,000 for pain and suffering; $2,000,000 for disfigurement; and $1,000,000 for risk of future harm. Judge Herndon based his decision on the medical records, stating that the cause and timing of the brain injury were both known and fully under the responsibility of the government.

If your loved one suffered a traumatic birth injury caused by medical malpractice at a government-run hospital such as a VA hospital, you can sue in federal court through the Federal Tort Claims Act. Levin & Perconti can assist you with this important decision.

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November 18, 2013

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Alleges Death During Birth

by Levin & Perconti

Medical malpractice lawsuits refer to those instances where professional negligence by a medical caregiver is alleged. The term refers to all cases of this sort, regardless of the specific injury that results. In the most extreme cases, a patient may pass away as a result of the inadequate medical care. At those times, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed. While there is much nuance, wrongful death lawsuits make distinct legal arguments that are somewhat different than those filed by a patient on their own behalf for an injury after mistreatment. The complexities of this distinction is just one of many reasons why it is important to seek out the aid of an experienced med mal attorney as soon as possible after harm to protect your rights.

Infant Death During Delivery
Unfortunately, one of the most common situations where medical malpractice is alleged to cause a death involve childbirth. Thousands of children are delivered every day. But just because the procedure is common does not mean that it is without risks. In fact, many families only learn too late of the serious nature of childbirth and the consequences when problems develop and are not handled properly.

For example, according to a new lawsuit filed and reported in the Disptach, a thirty year old women is seeking accountability following the death of her child during a late 2011 delivery. The woman went in for an induced delivery in November of 2011. Doctors knew ahead of time of a few risk factors which had complicated her pregnancy--including complications during a prior pregnancy and gestational diabetes.

At first, things progressed according to plan, with the induction drugs started in the early morning of November 15th. Yet, through the rest of the day, according to the lawsuit, there were clear signs that the fetus was in distress. Sadly, many hours later, the child was born without ever taking a breath. The baby was pronounced dead near 7:30pm that evening.

Med Mal Lawsuit
An autopsy performed later revealed that a lack of oxygen was the main issue, with the child dying from asphyxia. As in so many birth injury cases, the complaint suggests that a lack of timely intervention on the part of the medical team could have prevented the tragedy. This particular suit states that if the fetal distress was identified properly, then a cesarean section could have been performed. This emergency surgery would have allowed caregivers to provide aid to the child immediately, preventing the prolonged oxygen deprivation which ultimately led to the baby’s death.

Why did the medical team fail to identify the distress earlier? The lawsuit claims that a lack of monitoring was the cause. Childbirth can take many hours. In this case, the induction first started in the very early morning, and the birth itself did not happen for another 14 hours. Yet, as this sad example makes clear, it is critical for caregivers to vigilantly monitor progress throughout the day to identify any problems immediately and take action if necessary.

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June 28, 2013

Medical Malpractice “Infographic” -- It Happens More Than You Think

by Levin & Perconti

A new infographic is making its way around the web this week that touches on a wide range of general medical malpractice issues. The visual attempts to put into perspective some basic statistics about medical malpractice and legal liability.

For example, the image discusses those states which currently have laws on the books placing an arbitrary cap on damage awards in in these cases, ranging from $250,000 to $785,000. It shares the most recent data which shows a decline in total med mal legal payouts over the last eight years, peaking in 2003 and decreasing by over a billion dollars annually by 2011.

Back Through the Ages: Landmark Med Mal Cases
The site sharing the infographic also includes an interesting list of some large, interesting, or otherwise noteworthy legal cases over the years related to malpractice. Browsing the list is an interesting reminder of the many different forms that these errors take, and the variable consequences that result.

For example, information is shared on an important birth injury verdict stemming from oxygen deprivation. The mother in the case was given too many labor inducing drugs, the net result was fetal distress which led the infant to be without oxygen for some time. The child was saved but not before developing a serious form of cerebral palsy. A subsequent lawsuit resulted in a $31 million ruling. However, because of rules in the state, the family was unable to collect anything unless the state legislature specifically approved the request. Finally, in 2012, many years after the actual birth and legal ruling, the family finally received the legislative approval.

In another--quite bizarre case--a surgeon was sued for errors made during a back surgery. The patient was scheduled to have titanium rods placed into his back. However, for reasons not fully explained on the infographic site, the surgeon did not use titanium rods. Instead, he inserted a screwdriver into the patient’s back. The screwed eventually snapped, leading to many different pain, suffering, and medical complications for the patient. Eventually, after several more surgeries, the patient died. The man’s family filed a lawsuit which resulted in a liability ruling a $5.6 million payment.

Other cases referenced in the article relate to a far-too common problem--operating on the wrong part of the body. For example, a man received a $7.5 million settlement when it was discovered that during an open heart surgery his doctor had operated on the wrong artery. The error was only discovered after the man was rushed to the hospital with chest pains as a result of problems with the clogged artery that should have been cleared.

Similarly, a man received a $1.15 million payout after his wrong leg was amputated. A diabetic, the patient eventually lost both legs as a result of the incompetence

Unfortunately, some statistics referenced regarding medical malpractice payments and their effect on medical on the site are misleading--such as the myth that “defensive” medicine is a problem that will suddenly go away if patients no longer have full legal rights.

For guidance on medical malpractice laws in Illinois, feel free to contact our legal team today.

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January 18, 2013

Jury Finds for Defendant-Hospital in Birth Injury Case

by Levin & Perconti

Some legal researchers have identified that misconceptions about injury cases--including Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits--are often rooted in the way that the suits are covered by the media. In particular, the only time that a lawsuit reaches a mass audience is when the plaintiff wins the case, usually for a large amount. Other than that, most community members who do not file a suit themselves have little understanding of the overall dynamics of the legal system or the usual outcomes.

All of this leads to skewed public perceptions, with many thinking that most cases end with plaintiff’s winning millions of dollars after jury verdicts at trial. That is not at all the case. Instead, defendants are just as likely to win in these matter when brought to trial (the burden of proof is in their favor). And even when plaintiffs do win, the judgements are often nowhere near as large as those that make headlines.

Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm understands the need to break those stereotypes. After all, false assumptions about the civil justice system has led many community members to mistakenly support legislative changes which take away rights of injury victims. The first step in reversing those misguided actions is presenting an honest picture of the civil justice system and its operation.

Defendant Wins at Trial
For one thing, when a case goes to trial--which does not happen all that often--the defendant is often in a better position than the plaintiff. That is not necessarily because the defendants are blameless. Instead it is because the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to explicitly show that misconduct occurred. That is often hard to do. In close calls, where a juror is split 50-50, then the defendant wins the case, because a “tie” goes to the defendant.

For example, the Dodge Globe recently broke the trend and reported on an actual defense victory in a birth injury cases where medical malpractice was alleged.

The issue in the case was whether a nurse breached a standard of care in delivering a child, which led to the child developing serious complications, including cerebral palsy. According to the story, the family went into the medical clinic in the small town when she was only 34 weeks pregnant. After about an hour, it became clear that the baby was in trouble, with heart rate problems which led to oxygen deprivation in the child’s brain.

As the complications mounted, the nurse called a doctor and asked the doctor to come to the hospital. However, the doctor did not come promptly. It was more than half an hour before he arrived. By that point, the serious problems had worsened. The doctor ordered an immediate C-section. It was lucky that the baby survived, as she did not breathe at all the first five minutes following her birth. She needed more than a month in the neonatal intensive care unit.

In a subsequent lawsuit the plaintiff alleged--along with an expert medical witness--that the standard of care was breached because the nurse did not notify another physician when the first did not arrive promptly. The medical chain of command should have been followed, which would have involved far quicker action and prevented the child’s serious, life-long injury.

However, the jury disagreed and returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. There were questions about whether the fact that the clinic was in a small town affected the jury’s determination of the appropriate standard of care. The jury verdict was appealed to the Court of Appeals as well as the state Supreme Court. However, at both levels the court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

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December 14, 2012

More Attention Needed on Maternal Complications During Childbirth

by Levin & Perconti

When problems develop during childbirth most assume the same thing: I hope the child is OK. However, a new report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that we also need renewed focus on possible harm facing mothers during a birth.

Of course, in the past, childbirth has always been an incredibly dangerous time for mothers. In less developed parts of the world the material death rate remains shockingly high. While we recognize the risk elsewhere, in the United States there is a somewhat unacknowledged assumption that mothers will be fine during a delivery. The high risk of death during childbirth is a thing of the past--now the risk is very small.

Obviously vast improvements have been made over the decades on this front, but the problem has not gone away entirely. In fact, in some ways the risk of harm to the mother during childbirth has increased in recent years. It is vitally important that all of us understand this risk and that medical professionals act reasonable at all times to ensure mothers are not hurt in preventable ways as a result of inadequate response to maternal health complications during a birth.

As discussed in a recent story, the CDC report suggests that various maternal complications have rocked up by 75% in the decade ending in 2009, as compared to the rates from the 1990s. Those increases come in the form of more instances of cardiac arrest, kidney failure, respiratory problems, and severe bleeding. Each of these problems are incredibly serious and threaten the life of the mother.

The story explains that there are about 4 million births in the U.S. each year. Most of those occur without problems. When problems do develop, they are generally moderate. But in about 52,000 cases a year, severe complications arise for the mother. It it that total that has been rising in recent years. The reason, say those most familiar with the situation, is an increase in “high-risk” pregnancies. Now more than ever mothers who are older, are obese, and have chronic health conditions are giving birth.

The somewhat startling study is a reminder that medical professionals must act quickly and appropriately at all times to prevent harm to mothers during birth. While much focus has been placed on helping infants survive following complications, far fewer advances have been made on maternal health.

This needs to be corrected. Hopefully, changes are slowly rolled out at institutions across the country so that the medical response to these issues is quicker. One basic way to tackle the issue is increased preparation. Timing is of the utmost importance at these times, because if medical teams delay in even the slightest way after signs of problems, the delay can prove fatal. However, if medical teams are drilled in the possible problems and the correct responses, then their reaction time can be increased--perhaps saving lives. Toward that end the CDC is actually funding programs to help improve routines and protocols as hospitals to determine the response methods that are most successful.

While signs suggest things are moving in the right direct, there is a still a long way to go before all mothers receive reasonable care free of complications. If you or someone you knows is ever hurt in this way, please contact the medical malpractice lawyers at our firm to see how we can help.

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December 5, 2012

Technology & Increased Medical Costs

by Levin & Perconti

While the country's economy has been on the way up for the past few years. But the great recession of 2008 and 2009 threw many families into financial spirals, and many of them have yet to turn things around. Research into bankruptcies have found that sudden medical emergencies (and the accompanying bills) are one of the key reasons why many families face debt that they cannot pay back. Anyone who has dealt with a medical emergency or knows a loved one who has, likely understands this reality. Medical costs are staggering. Even with insurance, the bills often mount quickly. It is not uncommon for middle-class families to be unable to pay those costs.

It wasn't always this way. Medical bills in the past, while often a stress on families, were nowhere near as staggering as they are today.

What changed over the years? If you believe political talk of certain big interests, you might believe that medical malpractice lawsuits are to blame. However, virtually every credible source on the issue acknowledges that this is nothing but a red herring. It is incredibly harmful and inappropriate to blame injured medical patients for rising healthcare costs.

Instead we need honest evaluations of the situation to figure out how things got where they are today. A recent CNN story on the cost of childbirth provides one unique glimpse into the issue. The story explains how one man was shocked to find the hospital bill for his own birth in 1947. Even after a six-day hospital stay, use of the operating room, nursing services, medications, and more the total bill was only $70. That figure is eye-popping to those of us today who are used to spending significantly more for all medical services.

More Than Inflation
Is inflation to blame for the rising costs. Not really. $70 in 1947 is the same as about $726 in 2012 dollars. But according to a recent report fromt the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, an uncomplicated childbirth today costs about $11,000. If the delivery occurs via C-section, then the bill is $19,000. And this refers to a mother staying only a day or two after the birth--not five or six like in 1947. In other words, inflation accounts for only a fraction of the increase over the years. Something else is at play.

Technological developments are likely a significant cause of that increase. Medical advances over the years have worked wonders to help save lives. For example, in 1950 around 3 in every 100 children died shortly after their birth. Today that number is only .64 of every 100. In other words, medical care during childbirth is far better than in the past. The improved care, however, comes at a cost. The creation and use of the equipment and skills is expensive. That expense undoubtedly plays a role in steady rise of costs.

Of course, it is far too simplistic to suggest that technology alone is the cause of the rising healthcare costs. Insurance practices, complex/hidden billing arrangements, failure to receive preventative care, and other issues are undoubtedly at play as well. In addition, improved safety standards may also come with significant financial costs. If fewer complications develop then patients need less care overall--cutting back on costs.

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February 21, 2012

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit For Emotional Distress Without Physical Harm

by Levin & Perconti

Each individual case of Illinois medical malpractice presents a range of unique legal issues. In most cases, medical malpractice is essentially rooted in the civil claim for negligence—alleging that another community member did not act reasonably which caused their harm. In a general sense, this is the same whether the negligent party is a doctor, nurse, taxi driver, construction worker, or anyone else. Yet, when medical errors are involved there are often a few legal complications involved that are not present in other negligence situations—like expert witnesses—but the basic legal principles are the same.

However, as a new story in Medical Daily explains, depending on the unique situation, legal claims beyond negligence may be implicated following poor medical care. For example, the story discusses the rare situation where a suit is filed against a doctor for emotional distress, even where there is no physical harm. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm was interested to read about the case which involves a mother who sued her doctor for failing to prepare her for the mental and emotional shock of her newborn’s birth deformities.

In this particular case the mother filed the suit against her doctor in 2005, claiming both negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The doctor performed an ultrasound on the child and told the mother that the results were normal without any abnormalities. However, when the child was actually born he had a range of deformities. The baby did not have arms below the elbows or legs below the knees. He had an accessory tongue, delayed jaw growth, an umbilical hernia, and a ventral curvature of the penis. The effect of seeing her son for the first time without any warning about his unique disabilities threw the mother into shock. She explains that she suffered from severe emotional and mental distress in the aftermath of the birth.

The defense lawyers challenged the emotional distress claims, because it was unclear if the law allowed patients to file suit for purely emotional harm. However, an appellate court ruling in the state just affirmed the patient’s right. The attorney representing the plaintiff explained that the opinion was consistent with other rulings. In addition, he summarized that “where the specific professional responsibility of an attending physician is to convey accurate information, then failure to do so can give rise to liability if the physician’s breach results in unusual and extreme emotional distress on the part of the plaintiff.”

It is unclear how this latest appellate court ruling will affect future cases in the state against doctors. The law surrounding medical malpractice changes over time as societies adapt, rulings are shifted, and the world changes. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys closely follow all legal trends in this area for that reason—to ensure that clients are appraised of every option in front of them. When you may have been hurt in any way by the misconduct of your medical professionals, ensure that you visit with an experienced legal professional to learn about the potential legal ramifications of your situation.

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July 17, 2011

Medical Malpractice Lawyer Files Suit for Family in Obstetrical Error Case

by Levin & Perconti

A medical malpractice attorney has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the husband of a woman who died as a result of an obstetrical error during the birth of her child, reports the Mount Airy News. According to the report, the defendant obstetrician-gynecologist cut her small bowel while performing a cesarean section to deliver the victim’s first child.

After the surgery, the doctor closed her up without properly examining her. In the following days, she complained on nausea, abdominal pains and not being able to have a bowel movement, but her physician and hospital staff ignored these complaints. She was released home where her problems continued, until she returned to the hospital where lab tests revealed that her kidneys had stopped functioning. She was transferred to a larger hospital, but unfortunately died soon after transfer. According to the lawsuit, the woman was most likely suffering from sepsis as a result of the doctor’s surgical mistakes.

When the woman’s small bowel was severed during the cesarean, the doctor did not realize the mistake or take action to remedy it. When tears or perforations to the small bowel occur, the contents of the bowel can leak into a person’s abdominal cavity which can lead to a sepsis infection. When left untreated, sepsis infections can be fatal such as in this woman’s case.

Our attorneys see a number of cases where preventable medical errors and mistakes go unnoticed, untreated, and lead to further injury or death. One of the goals of a medical malpractice lawsuit is to hold all wrongdoers responsible for lapses in care that cause someone else to suffer serious injuries or death. In this particular lawsuit, the victim’s family’s lawyer not only named the physician, but also the hospital and physician’s practice group as defendants, alleging that the doctor released the victim without properly examining her, the hospital failed to attend to her complaints of abdominal pain, and the practice group is negligent for lack of informed consent.

Wrongful death lawsuits also work to recover economic and non-economic damages for injured victims or the families of those wrongfully killed. In this particular case, the family will seek damages for funeral expenses and pain and suffering. The family can also seek damages to receive compensation for the victim’s lost future income.

Often, we report on lawsuits involving injuries to babies at birth. However, as with any medical procedure, labor and delivery also bring significant risks to the mother, and our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have experience in these types of cases. We represented the family of a mother who died two weeks after her daughter’s birth because her doctor failed to diagnose or treat her abnormal bleeding after a cesarean. Our wrongful death lawyers received a $7 million jury verdict for the woman’s husband and child. We pride ourselves in our extensive experience handling cases involving complex medical issues, including those involving the injuries or death of a mother during childbirth, and work to help others achieve justice for the harms caused.

July 15, 2011

Birth Injuries – A Devastating Form Of Medical Malpractice In Illinois

by Levin & Perconti

Medical malpractice injuries can take many forms and can occur to patients in any age group. Regrettably, birth injury cases in Illinois account for many of those injuries. The most recent available statistics from the Illinois Department of Public Health show that in the years 2006-2008, approximately 27 out of every 1000 births in Illinois involved some form of birth-related injury, and another approximately 6 out of every 1000 births resulted in death as a result of health-care provider injury. Though at first glance it may seem like a small percentage, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports that 180,503 babies were born in Illinois in the year 2006; if the statistics are correct, more than 4,800 babies were seriously harmed, and another almost 1,100 killed in cases of Illinois medical malpractice.

Certainly in some instances, birth injuries occur by no fault of the doctors or nurses, but the truth is that many, if not most of these injuries result from negligence and/or mistakes on the part of health care providers. Parents place their trust in hospitals and doctors, and when babies are harmed the effects of the negligence are devastating.

Injuries to the baby can happen at almost any stage of the delivery or labor process. When errors are made and doctors or nurses are careless, birth injuries may result. Although some babies with birth injuries may ultimately recover quickly, unfortunately many more end up suffering from permanent debilitating mental or physical conditions, treatment for which may be life-long.

Birth injury lawsuits allow the parents to collect damages from the insurers of the negligent health care providers so that the parents can have help with the costs of providing care for the child throughout the duration of the child’s life. Some of these expenses may include:

Past and future medical expenses for treating the injury,
The cost of providing care for the child,
The cost of specialized schooling for the child,
Emotional and physical pain and suffering experienced by the child,
The costs of future earnings that the child may have received, had he or she lived a normal life,
And many others.

In these cases, the life-long effects can be overwhelming, and sometimes the only way to get retribution is to have those who caused the injury help pay for the cost of future remedies. When you add up the expenses for the effects of a birth injury, it’s easy to see that future care for a birth injury is both emotionally and monetarily costly. Doctors and hospitals are often insured, which allows parents of an injured child to be able to provide the best possible care for the child – something that wouldn’t likely be feasible on an average family’s salary.

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys have seen hundreds of cases in which children are harmed during labor or delivery, and understand the tremendous struggle that parents with injured children have to endure. If you or a loved one have had a child who has suffered a birth injury, an attorney may be the best person to help you understand your rights.

February 7, 2011

Birth Injury Lawsuit Leads to $3 Medical Malpractice Verdict

by Levin & Perconti

Avvo reported last week on the culmination of a medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from a birth injury.

The actual medical error leading to the trial occurred 18 years ago. The negligent obstetrician-gynecologist was presiding over the delivery of a baby girl when problems developed. However, the negligent doctor failed to act in a timely manner to help prevent complications from developing. Specifically, the doctor allowed a substantial time delay between the complications and the ordering of surgery. As a result of that error, the child suffered fetal asphyxia caused by umbilical cord compressions.

The damaging occurrence often leads to neurological problems in the infants, including cerebral palsy or even death. The child born here suffers from a number of developmental problems.

After hearing the evidence, the jury in this case found that the doctor’s poor care was a substantial factor in the girl’s asphyxia and subsequent neurological problems. They awarded her $3 million for her losses from medical malpractice.

As blog readers are aware, quick action is crucial during childbirth. Even small delays in decision-making can be the difference between life and death. All childbirth doctors know this and are therefore held to a reasonable standard of care when they aid in deliveries.

Continue reading "Birth Injury Lawsuit Leads to $3 Medical Malpractice Verdict" »

April 17, 2010

$9.5 Million Settlement Reached in Cerebral Palsy Case

by Levin & Perconti

A medical malpractice victim has settled with an Illinois hospital, a nurse midwife and the nurse’s employer for a $9.5 million medical malpractice lawsuit. The victims had alleged that the hospital was a fault for causing their son’s cerebral palsy. The victim’s mother was admitted to the hospital in 1996 while she was in labor with her son. The nurse had failed to promptly get a doctor when the mother requested one upon experiencing complications. The Illinois judge and mediator agreed to the medical malpractice settlement and believed it was good for both sides. This case took place in an Elgin hospital. To read more about this medical malpractice settlement, please click the link.

In the United States alone, about 10,000 babies per year will develop cerebral palsy. About two-thirds of those children will be mentally impaired. One cause of cerebral palsy is birth injury or birth trauma. Medical negligence, such as careless handling of the child’s cranium or an undetected oxygen blockage in the child’s brain is a factor in cerebral palsy cases. There are two factors that can indicate potential dangers during prolonged labor. These include the baby getting “stuck” in the birth canal with no oxygen supply. Also, if your water broke and your doctor didn’t make sure that you delivered within 24 hours you should alert someone immediately. If your child developed cerebral palsy as the result of medical negligence, consult a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer. To learn more facts about cerebral palsy, please check out the link.

April 9, 2010

Jury Awards Family $10 Million in an Ambulance Birth

by Levin & Perconti

A jury has awarded a medical malpractice victim $10 million. The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the jury found the ambulance service at fault for the victim’s son’s premature birth injuries incurred in the ambulance. The medical malpractice trial lasted two-weeks. The jury decided that the company was negligent for transporting the woman when she gave birth to her son en route to the hospital. The boy is now six.

At the time of the birth he weighed 1.7 pounds and suffered a lack of oxygen to the brain. This left the boy suffering from cerebral palsy. While no amount of money will make up for the damage that her son has occurred, the victim is pleased with the outcome. The original medical malpractice lawsuit also included the hospitals and doctors. All of these defendants settled with the plaintiff for a total of $1.4 million last year. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the victim first went to a medical center suffering from pain and premature labor. The emergency room physician believed that she should stay and be treated at the hospital, but an ambulance was called to transport her to another hospital. The boy was born about 15 minutes into the trip but had trouble breathing. CPR needed to be performed.

Cerebral Palsy, which involves lack of motor function, can result as a result of medical negligence. If your child has cerebral palsy, please contact a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. To read more about this specific medical malpractice trial, please click the link.

April 7, 2010

Family Wins Medical Malpractice Suit Against Chicago Hospital

by Levin & Perconti

A Gurnee, Illinois family has won a $29.1 million verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit that was decided in federal court. The Daily Herald is reporting that the verdict benefits the 6-year-old victim who is now a quadriplegic suffering from cerebral palsy. The boy was delivered with the birth injury in May of 2003 at Northwestern Hospital in Chicago.
The medical malpractice lawsuit was brought in federal court because the doctors guilty of the medical error worked for a federally funded clinic in Chicago, the Erie Family Health Center. The medical malpractice lawsuit was also filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows victims to sue the federal government. Filing under the Federal Tort Claims Act requires a bench trial without a jury. Thus, Northern District of Illinois Judge Amy St. Eve was responsible for handing down the medical malpractice verdict. While the verdict was for $29.1 million, this will be setoff by a previous $6.5 million settlement reached with the hospital last year.

Cerebral Palsy is a common birth defect that can be a result of medical malpractice. When doctors leave a baby in the birth canal too long, cerebral palsy may develop. Cerebral Palsy affects a child’s movement and posture and can result in involuntary or uncontrolled movements. This birth injury often requires lifelong medical care and treatment. If your child suffered cerebral palsy as the result of medical error, please consult a Chicago injury lawyer. To read more about this Illinois medical malpractice , verdict please click the link.

March 1, 2010

Tort Reform Detrimentally Harms Victims of Medical Negligence

by Levin & Perconti

All too often the public does not hear about the detrimental effects tort reform has on the hundreds of thousands of victims whom are injured by medical malpractice each year. Tort reform puts a cap on compensation for victims of medical negligence. The Huffington Post points out the specific case of Lisa Gurley. A court found that the severe brain injury suffered at birth by Lisa’s son, Colin, was caused by a doctor’s negligence. Despite this finding, Nebraska tort reform prevented Lisa and her son from being adequately compensated for his injuries. In fact, they were compensated for just a tiny fraction of what it will cost to care for Colin for the remainder of his life. Now, Medicaid and the Nebraska Medically Handicap Children's program pay for all of Colin’s care. It is grossly unfair that the taxpayers and Colin’s family are paying the astronomical cost of caring for a severely handicapped child while the doctor and the insurance company paid minimally for the medical negligence. The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin and Perconti are working to protect the rights of catastrophically injured children like Colin and to ensure that there continue to be adequate remedies for injured victims of medical negligence.

January 26, 2010

Illinois Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Claims Fetal Distress Not Detected

by Levin & Perconti

A Collinsville, Illinois woman claims her daughter died after her doctor allegedly failed to provide her with proper pre-natal care. She filed the medical malpractice lawsuit against both the hospital and physician. The medical malpractice lawsuit claims that the doctor breached her duty of care by failing to monitor or assess the fetal viability during the pregnancy in light of the existing medical conditions. Also, the doctor failed to treat the mother’s diabetes in order to properly ensure fetal development. Finally, the medical malpractice lawsuit states that because the doctor failed to intervene when the fetus became distressed her daughter died. The Illinois lawsuit seeks more than $400,000 in damages. To read all of the medical malpractice counts, please click the link.

December 31, 2009

Ignored Patient Sues Hospital for Medical Error

by Levin & Perconti

A woman and her fiancé filed a federal medical malpractice lawsuit against two hospitals. They allege that they were ignored in a hospital emergency room so long that they returned home where the woman gave birth to a premature baby. The baby then died. The victims allege that their federal right to emergency medical treatment was violated. They seek unspecified damages for emotional distress. The two did not have medical insurance. There are current investigations as to whether the couple was ignored after the woman entered the hospital with severe abdominal pain. Federal law requires that most hospitals provide emergency attention to patients whether or not they have insurance. To ignore such a patient is medical malpractice. After visiting to two hospitals the couple went home. The mother gave birth to a breach baby and the 1-pound, 6 ounce baby girl was pronounced dead at the scene. This type of medical error goes hand in hand with health care reform. To read more about the birth injury, please click the link.