A $53 Million Verdict Based on No Evidence?

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

July 19, 2016

In This Article

A $53 Million Verdict Based on No Evidence?

In the highest award ever for a birth injury case in Cook County, Illinois—and the second highest award for any medical malpractice suit in the same jurisdiction—a jury late last month slapped University of Chicago Medicine with a $53 million judgment, according to a story in Crain's Chicago Business, among other news outlets.[1]

The mega-award stems from a case involving Lisa Ewing and her son, Isaiah, now 12. During his April 2004 birth at the Hyde Park hospital, plaintiffs alleged, nurses and doctors were negligent when Isaiah went into a state of fetal distress that deprived him of oxygen. That deprivation, the plaintiffs claim, resulted in the newborn's severe brain injury.

In a post-verdict statement, the hospital said that although it has "great sympathy" for Isaiah and his family, it strongly disagreed with the jury's verdict. It explained that the boy and his mother had been treated for an infection, a "recognized cause" of cerebral palsy, and that Isaiah had been born with normal oxygen levels and not deprived of oxygen. His injury had occurred, the hospital said, before the period referenced in the plaintiffs' claim.

The hospital has filed two motions for a mistrial. It has argued that the Ewings' attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, not only revealed confidential information to jurors but also poisoned jury members against the hospital, with accusations of a cover-up and references to similar strategies being used by "a minister of truth and propaganda."

Said the hospital in its filing, "There is not so much as a scrap of evidence in this case even remotely supporting those outrageous accusations [of a cover-up]." In a further excerpt of its statement, printed in the Chicago Tribune, the hospital accused Fieger of prejudicially arguing "that the defendant's case was built on a falsehood and [of proceeding] to equate defendant's conduct and testimony of its witnesses with the propaganda techniques notoriously and unmistakably associated with Nazi Germany."[2]

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