The Kaufmann Case
This mother was pregnant with her first child. At a prenatal visit, she was recorded as having protein in her urine, swelling and elevated blood pressure, all signs of preeclampsia (also known as toxemia or pregnancy induced hypertension), but these signs went unnoticed by her obstetrician. The next evening, she called her doctors’ office and reported severe pain in her chest and abdomen. After her second call that evening, she was told by the on-call doctor to go to Defendant Hospital, which she immediately did. At the emergency room, a nurse recorded that she had blurred vision, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting – all signs of preeclampsia. The nurse never took blood work or a urine sample. After consulting with the obstetrician on-call, the nurse concluded that the mother was simply upset. Over the next seven hours, the mother continued to get sicker until she lapsed into a seizure and was finally seen by a doctor. By the time the doctor determined the source of her seizure and ordered an emergency C-section, the baby had experienced oxygen deprivation in-utero and was born asphyxiated. The child went on to suffer a permanent brain injury, lung and feeding problems. The brain injury, though “slight”, could cause him to become barely employable in his adulthood.
During trial, experts for Defendant Hospital and the plaintiff doctors testified that the mother received “standard of care” medical treatment. Also, during trial, the local newspaper printed front page articles about frivolous lawsuits potentially closing Defendant Hospital’s Obstetrical Department. The jury returned of verdict of $4.2 that climbed over $5 million with court-ordered interest.
Defendant Hosptial appealed to the court to reduce the verdict because paying it, according to the hospital, might cause a shut down of the its obstetrical department. In follow-up court proceedings, however, it was determined that most of the verdict would be paid by insurance and the hospital had net assets exceeding $500,000,000 meaning the hospital and labor-delivery unit were not at risk.
The settlement funds were used to set up a “special needs” trust to lock-in the award for the benefit of the child’s lifetime housing, education, special health needs and to replace lifetime wage loss resulting from his injuries.