$48 Million Award vs Chicago Pediatrician in Child Murder

Ken Terry

December 14, 2017

A Chicago jury has awarded $48 million to the family of an 8-year-old girl, Gizzell Ford, who was tortured and murdered in 2013 by her grandmother, Helen Ford, just weeks after being examined by Norell Rosado, MD, a respected pediatrician who specializes in child-abuse cases, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The judgment in the wrongful death suit was levied against Dr Rosado, who was charged with not having reported signs of child abuse to the authorities. However, the insurer of Cook County, which employed Dr Rosado in its hospital system at the time he examined Gizzell Ford, will pay the penalty.

Helen Ford is serving a life sentence for the brutal slaying.

In the civil suit brought by Sandra Mercado, the girl's mother, and her grandfather Juan Mercado, Dr Rosado was accused of medical negligence for failing to immediately alert authorities to possible signs of abuse, failing to ask basic questions about the injuries he saw, and failing to document his findings properly. He examined Gizzell after the Ford family initiated a molestation probe against her mother's boyfriend, according to the Tribune.

In his trial testimony, Dr Rosado said he saw no signs of physical abuse when he examined the child. The abrasions he saw on Gizzell's legs and buttocks, he said, were "non-specific or non-concerning for abuse." He reported his findings to the state's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) 16 days before the child's death.

According to one of Dr Rosado's lawyers, Chaka Patterson, the pediatrician had conducted more than 3000 child abuse exams in his 17-year career. He had also trained over 1000 doctors and had testified for the state in 40 criminal trials.

A Tribune investigation in 2013 found that "multiple layers of trained professionals duty-bound to protect children had contact with the emaciated girl in the final months of her life but failed to act on warning signs."

A month before the girl's death on July 12, 2013, a DCFS investigator visited Helen Ford's apartment to check out the accusation that the child had been molested by her mother's boyfriend before she came to live with her grandmother and her bedridden father. Gizzell had bruises and wounds all over her body, the Tribune reported, but the DCFS worker reported nothing out of the ordinary. She was later fired.

The DCFS and its former investigator were originally codefendants with Dr Rosado in the wrongful death lawsuit. However, the judge dismissed them from the case, finding that their actions were protected from civil court challenges.

The judgment against Dr Rosado, who now works at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, is the result of a wrongful death suit, not a criminal malpractice verdict. Nevertheless, it ranks with the largest malpractice awards in history, according to MD Magazine, including a $74.5 million judgment in 2012 in a California case involving serious birth injuries. Another birth injury case in Connecticut led to a $58.6 million award in 2011.

The Gizzell Ford case evokes memories of the grisly 1987 murder of 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg in New York City. After testimony against the child's adoptive father, Joel Steinberg, by his abused partner, Hedda Nussbaum, he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter in 1989. Steinberg was paroled in 2004.

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