For more information of confidential assistance
Call 800-306-3180

Brooklyn Family Wins $25 Million Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit

hospital malpractice settlement

Hospital Malpractice LawsuitA six-year-old Brooklyn boy is unable to walk or talk and requires 24-hour care as a result of his birth hospital’s failure to diagnose jaundice. A jury award of $25 million was given to help the family of the handicapped boy cover his medical expenses.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a more preventable case,” said the attorney who brought the hospital malpractice lawsuit on behalf of the victims. “It’s heartbreaking to see a child like this,” he added.

What is jaundice?

Jaundice is the most common condition affecting newborn babies, with about 50 percent of term and 80 percent of preterm babies requiring medical attention in the first weeks of life. It’s also a common reason for newborns to be readmitted to the hospital after discharge. According to American Family Physician, the condition typically appears two to four days after birth and disappears within two weeks, usually without treatment.

When babies are affected by jaundice, their skin, eyes and mucus membranes turn yellow from excess bilirubin pigment, a byproduct of old red blood cells. Normally, this waste product is filtered from the blood through the liver, where it meets up with other chemicals and gets excreted out as feces.

In some cases, however, the bilirubin bypasses the liver and leaks out into the surrounding tissues. If the bilirubin reaches the brain, there can be severe consequences. Early symptoms of acute bilirubin encephalopathy include lethargy, decreased feeding, high-pitched crying, fever, and seizures. If the bilirubin buildup in the brain is not treated immediately, it can lead to kernicterus, potentially fatal brain damage.

Hospital’s failure to diagnose left a young boy permanently disabled

According to the lawsuit, Jaelin Sence was released by Dr. Ioania Atoynatan and New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope less than 48 hours after birth, without proper examination or follow-up — even though the boy’s mother complained that the boy’s skin and eyes appeared yellow. Nurses dismissed the mother’s concerns and told her that the illness would go away on its own.

Instead, the conditioned worsened until the boy began vomiting. His parents rushed him to Kings County Hospital, where he was diagnosed with hyperbilirubineamia. Once jaundice progresses to such a serious level, it can be hard to treat and often results in brain damage and cerebral palsy. Despite performing two blood transfusions, doctors were able to save the boy’s life – but not his brain.

When is a jaundice case grounds for a hospital malpractice lawsuit?

There are many reasons why a baby may have a more severe form of jaundice that does not clear up on its own. Underlying conditions like liver disease, bacterial or viral blood infection, blocked bile or bowel ducts, liver inflammation, red blood cell abnormalities, enzyme deficiency, or hypothyroidism can all cause severe jaundice. The babies most at risk are preemies, babies who do not breastfeed adequately, babies that emerge severely bruised, or babies with a different blood type than their mothers.

Medical staff should test all babies for jaundice before discharging them from the hospital. Simply looking at the baby is usually enough to know if a baby requires treatment for jaundice, although doctors can also check blood bilirubin levels and perform a light test with a transcutaneous bilirubinometer device. Blood transfusions and light therapy are usually enough to cure a baby’s jaundice and prevent it from progressing further. In rare cases, surgery or drug treatment may be required.

New York Methodist Hospital has denied any wrongdoing in Jaelin’s case and plans to appeal the jury award. If the award stands, the family will be able to afford round-the-clock care with the mother serving as his home health aide. “He cannot sit by himself. He cannot walk,” she said. “It’s very, very, very hard,” his mother said — adding that she’d gladly trade the money for a healthy son.