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Large Verdict Returned in Birth Injury Case – The Exception, Not the Norm

The Mercury published a helpful article last week on the large medical malpractice case that made headlines after a jury returned a large verdict after determining that negligence led to a permanent, debilitating brain injury during birth.

The case was filed by a woman who went to the hospital a few weeks before her due date. She was showing signs of placental abruption-when the placenta leaves the uterine wall-which often necessitates an emergency delivery of the child to avoid any long-term harm. Before making any decision, the woman’s doctor performed an ultrasound. Yet, for a variety of reasons-including the fact that the equipment may have been defective-the doctor did not find a fetal heartbeat. As a result he told the woman that he child had died.

But the child was not dead; the ultrasound was just not performed correctly.

When an ultrasound technician actually came in later to review the results, he caught the mistake. It was only then, an hour and twenty minutes later, that the baby was quickly taken from the womb. However, the delay had serious consequences for the child-he suffered a permanent brain injury. A medical malpractice lawsuit was eventually filed. The case ended with the jury finding for the plaintiff and awarding them $78.5 million.

Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers understand the importance of the family in this case, like all cases, having the right to have a jury of their peers decide the total damages of a case after hearing all of the evidence. Unfortunately, we also know that cases like this are frequently taken out of context, with the verdict amount plucked out, and used to “prove” how certain verdicts are wrong. It is vital that we fight back against those distortions.

For one thing, verdicts of this size are exceedingly rare. As we have mentioned many times before, there are thousands and thousands of cases all the time with very few ending in settlements are verdicts anywhere near this amount. Using an infintismal fraction of decisions as “proof” of the need for legal changes is not apt.

While one might disagree with certain verdicts, the entire point of the law is to provide the best avenue we have available to reach decisions on issues that are inherently filled with disagreement. If everyone already agreed on who was at fault and what the damages were, then there would be no need for a justice system at all. We’d just do what everyone already knew. But that is not the world we live in. Instead, the justice system specifically exists to adjudicate those disputes. In other words, we should be surprised if people weren’t in disagreement with particular outcomes. That disagreement is in no way a reason to change the system itself.

On top of that, changing rules for everyone in the system simply because of a few outlier verdicts is never a good idea. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know that this is nothing more than an attempt by those to have much to gain to slide through legal changes that hurt permanently take away basic rights.

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