Jury Awards $15.5 Million to Care
For Child Injured During Birth
Responsible parties will pay for care, not taxpayers, attorney notes.
ST. PAUL – Thanks to a $15.5 million jury award, Minnesota taxpayers won’t have to foot the bill for a lifetime of care for a child permanently disabled by birth injuries due to medical negligence, his lawyer said today.
“The economic burden will fall on those responsible for his condition, not on public health services, which often pick up the tab in catastrophic situations. This is not only justice for the child and his family, but for society as a whole,” said Howard Janet, of Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLP, Baltimore, MD.
A St. Paul jury on Oct. 26 awarded Janet’s client, five-year-old Dhevyn Blackburn and his mother, Meshell Davis, a total of $15.5 million in their medical negligence lawsuit. The award includes $9 million in future medical and home care expenses, with the balance in lost future earnings, past medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering and lost services to his mother.
Defendants were Aspen Medical Group, PA, of St. Paul, and obstetrician Samuel Patrick Donegan, M.D. The family earlier reached out of court settlements with a local hospital and several nurses involved in the case.
The trial was held in Ramsey County District Court, Second Judicial District. Judge David C. Higgs presided. Steve C. Offutt, with Janet, Jenner & Suggs, also represented the family.
During the trial, the jury of five women and two men heard testimony that doctors with Aspen Medical Group allowed Davis to labor for 19 hours without checking on her, despite numerous indications the fetus was in distress and was not receiving enough oxygen. Dr. Donegan, who finally delivered the baby, came in a full two hours after receiving the last update from nurses that the baby was still showing signs of trouble, according to testimony.
As a result of oxygen deprivation, the full term child was born with mental retardation and has a severe form of cerebral palsy known as spastic quadriplegia.
“According to one of the country’s leading pediatric neurologists, 12 to 23 percent of term babies who develop cerebral palsy do so because of inadequate oxygenation during the birth process,” noted Janet, whose firm has offices across the country and has
evaluated thousands of birth injury cases nationwide.
“One of the things we have found in our cerebral palsy cases is that while fetal heart monitors were worn by laboring mothers, patterns indicating distress were either misinterpreted or ignored by doctors, or both.
“When there are any signs of fetal distress, parents are entitled to face-to-face bedside care and monitoring by their physician, and when circumstances warrant, timely delivery by cesarean section. Anything less is unacceptable.” Janet said.
Janet is known nationally for representation of children suffering from cerebral palsy as the result of preventable birth injuries and as an advocate for the rights of children and adults with cerebral palsy. The firm recently awarded grants to grass-roots cerebral palsy organizations in Maryland and Washington through its Cerebral Palsy Awareness small grants program. For information about the program and fetal heart monitoring, visit www.cpalert.com
(Articles about this verdict appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Associated Press and Minnesota Lawyer.)
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