At our law firm, we unfortunately get to see the worst of the medical profession. Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, is a top New York personal injury firm, and as such, we handle cases ranging from workplace accidents to defective products. Some of the hardest cases to take are birth injuries—when a newborn baby suffers devastating harm at the hands of doctors.
“The hospital shall go nameless, but it is one of the best hospitals in the country. A nurse wrote an entry that a baby, who was well, had jaundice: she noticed jaundice in the baby. The doctor discharged the baby two days after birth (which is normal), thinking the baby was absolutely healthy.
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a chemical compound in hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your blood cells. When those blood cells break down, they are processed by the liver. If the liver is overwhelmed by a lot of blood, bilirubin can build up in your body. About 60% of babies are diagnosed with jaundice. (March of Dimes)
“Five days later, the baby developed kernicterus, which is a specific form of brain damage related to jaundice—related to elevated bilirubin. And this baby was devastated, because by the time the parents brought the baby to another hospital, the brain damage was complete, and there was nothing that could be done to make this baby recover. And it was all because the doctor didn’t notice that the nurse had written ‘jaundice.’
Hyperbilirubinemia is an overwhelming amount of bilirubin in the baby’s tissues, fluids, and organs. When the baby is in the womb, the mother’s placenta excretes bilirubin from the system. After the baby is born, it’s up to his or her liver—and newborns produce more bilirubin than an adult. When a jaundiced baby isn’t given medical care, the baby can suffer preventable brain damage and seizures.
“Had the doctor noticed that, the doctor could’ve realized—should’ve realized—that this was something that was a potential problem. All he had to do was put the baby under lights in the nursery, or tell the mother to come back the day after discharge and examine the baby to see if this was a potential problem. It absolutely could have been avoided; 100% avoided. But the failure to look in that record and appreciate the nurse’s note had a devastating effect on this baby.
“We prosecuted this case right up until the time of trial. There was a denial of liability. The defendants claimed that this was something that can happen; that the baby was a well baby; that it’s alright to discharge a baby under these circumstances. But we obtained a nationally known expert in bilirubin from California, who was able to come in and testify and would have testified that because of that note, and because of the race of the child—the child was African-American, and they have an increased risk of elevated bilirubin—and because the child had a cephalohematoma—that those factors required close examination, which the doctor didn’t do.
A cephalohematoma is a pooling of blood between a baby’s scalp and skull. It’s due to blood vessels damaged during birth, and is often caused by forceps delivery, vacuum extraction, or a prolonged labor. This swelling is mostly harmless, unless doctors don’t monitor the baby’s health carefully. The excess blood increases the risk of jaundice and hyperbilirubinemia. CH is a common birth injury, appearing in 1% to 2% of all babies born. (Healthline)
“We settled that case right after jury selection when they saw that we were prepared to go all the way and try the case. And we settled that case for $8 million.”
Though the money won’t undo the damage that was done to this baby, it will help the family get the finest care available for their child.
If you’d like to speak to a top NYC medical malpractice lawyer at WRSH about your own child, please call (212) 986-7353. New York has deadlines for filing a claim, and the sooner we can review the evidence and investigate your situation, the better your likely outcome. Remember, if WRSH takes your case, you owe no fees until we get you the compensation your child deserves.