A Cook County judge has upheld most of a jury’s $53 million medical malpractice verdict awarded to the family of a boy born with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, and rejected an attempt by the University of Chicago Medical Center to secure a new trial to reduce or undo most of what is considered the largest malpractice verdict ever awarded in Cook County.
On Dec. 29, Cook County Judge John P. Kirby denied the University of Chicago hospital’s motion for a new trial in the case.
The judge did trim the verdict by $950,000 to correct what plaintiffs’ attorneys called a “technical error.” But the decision means the university hospital must appeal to avoid paying more than $52 million to the family of 12-year-old Isaiah Ewing.
Ewing and his family were represented in the action by attorney Geoffrey Fieger, of Southfield, Mich., and the firm of Beam & Raymond, of Chicago.
“The court ruled that the University of Chicago Medical Center was given a fair trial and that the jury rendered its award based upon the extensive testimony and evidence presented throughout the case,” said Fieger’s firm in a prepared statement announcing the judgment. “Despite the defendant's claims of error, the court found that nothing prejudiced the defendant and found all of the arguments by … Fieger, to be entirely proper.”
The decision came six months after a Cook County jury first found in favor of Ewing, ordering the hospital to pay $53 million for alleged medical malpractice at the time of Ewing’s birth, leading to the boy’s disabilities.
According to court documents, plaintiffs alleged doctors and staff at the hospital had ignored Ewing’s mother for hours when she sought their care in 2004 while pregnant with Ewing. The suit alleged the hospital’s staff ignored signs of fetal distress and to delay a Cesarean section delivery. The plaintiffs alleged this led to severe brain damage in the child, who now has cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
Following the verdict, the hospital had requested a new trial, arguing Fieger’s conduct during the trial was improper and tainted the resulting verdict. The hospital has alleged Ewing’s cerebral palsy was most likely caused by an infection, which had begun before Ewing’s mother arrived at the hospital in 2004. The hospital also argued there had been no oxygen deprivation, as plaintiffs had claimed, and that Ewing as born with normal blood oxygen levels.
Fieger had responded to the hospital’s allegations by calling the hospital’s counterarguments “an obscene defense,” saying the hospital’s own neonatal intensive care unit “had ruled out an infection and had diagnosed Isaiah’s brain injury as being caused by lack of oxygen.”
The hospital has not yet filed an appeal, according to Cook County court records.
University of Chicago and other defendants were represented in the case by attorneys with the firm of Lowis & Gellen, of Chicago.