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Analysis

Jury Awards $50M in NorthShore Health Malpractice Suit

By John Commins  
   October 10, 2018

Plaintiffs say clinicians at the Evanston, Illinois health system failed to recognize signs of fetal distress that led to oxygen deficiency and devastating brain injuries for a newborn.

A Chicago jury on Tuesday awarded $50 million to the family of a child whose delayed diagnosis of severe oxygen deficiency before birth at NorthShore University HealthSystem led to severe and permanent brain injuries.

When Julien Florez was born on March 22, 2009 at NorthShore, in Evanston, Illinois, he was blue, had an uneven heart rate, and was unable to breathe on his own, according to a complaint filed with Cook County Circuit Court.

The attending physicians and nurses performed chest compressions on the newborn and worked to get oxygen to his brain and organs for an hour, but the newborn suffered a hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy due to the lack of oxygen to his vital organs, the Florez family's physician said, according to the complaint.

Because of the HIE, Julien developed cerebral palsy. He's now nine years old and struggles with basic tasks. His English and Spanish vocabularies are limited to about 30 words and he communicates primarily through gesturing with his hands. Additionally, Julien has decreased motor skills, bilateral hearing loss and difficulty walking, the complaint read.

The complaint charged that the attending clinicians failed to recognize signs of fetal distress shown on a fetal monitor strip prior to his birth, and made matters worse by prescribing Pitocin for his mother Aimee Florez to speed up and strengthen contractions, which put more stress on the baby in the womb.

In addition, the complaint charged that the medical staff waited too long to call for a C-section, which kept the child in an unsafe environment for several hours and led to the brain injury.

"Had Aimee never been given Pitocin and been administered a more-timely C-section, Julien's injury could have been prevented altogether," plaintiff's attorney Patrick A. Salvi II said in a media release.

"Medical records show Aimee was given Pitocin despite the warning signs that Julien may not be tolerating the stresses of labor," Salvi said. "Instead of letting her body figure it out, her doctors started a medicine that runs the risk of resulting in increased stress to the baby."

Salvi said the plaintiff's declined a $10 million settlement offer during the trial.

NorthShore issued a statement saying it was "disappointed with this decision and intend to appeal the matter."

"We support the clinical care provided by our labor and delivery team who continually places the utmost priority on patient care and safety," NorthShore said.   

Jury Awards $50M in NorthShore Health Malpractice Suit by HLMedit on Scribd

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

NorthShore 'disappointed' with award, readies appeal.

Plaintiffs charged that attending clinicians failed to recognize signs of fetal distress shown on a fetal monitor strip.

The complaint said that clinicians erred in prescribing Pitocin for the mother, which put more stress on the baby in the womb.


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