Awarded to Woman for Emotional Injuries Caused by Baby's Death, $4.5 Million
Phil Russotti recently obtained, by our research, the largest verdict, $4,500,000.00, ever rendered in the country for emotional damages for a mother who lost a child at childbirth. The case concerned the failure of paramedics to immediately transport the pregnant mother to a hospital despite signs of placental abruption in a term pregnancy. The baby died one day after birth and the mother suffered physical and emotional injuries.
Phil proved at trial that two paramedics, who arrived after plaintiff's membranes ruptured in the early morning hours, negligently failed to promptly recognize signs of abruptio placenta and hypovolemic shock, and negligently failed to immediately rush her to the hospital. We contended that as a result, she arrived at least 18 minutes later than was acceptable under the circumstances and that the delay caused hypoxia to the fetus who died the following day. The mother suffered excessive bleeding and required a second surgery to control it. Her massive loss of blood resulting in kidney failure was ultimately resolved.
In New York, family members are not entitled to emotional damages which they suffer as a result of the wrongful death of a loved one except in two very limited circumstances. We argued that one applied to this case. When a mother gives birth and the baby dies shortly after childbirth, the mother is entitled to damages for her emotional suffering if she is physically injured by the same negligence which injured the baby and those injuries would not normally have occurred during a childbirth. In this case we proved that the mother was entitled to an award for her emotional distress stemming from the death of her child because of the injuries she suffered.
The plaintiff, who had a life long history of low level depression, explained that the happiest time in her life was during the first 3-4 years following the birth of her first son eight years before trial. She became pregnant again a year before this incident, but miscarried shortly thereafter and had greatly desired another child because she believed that it would bring a return of this prior happiness. She explained that she was thrilled when she became pregnant. However, the pregnancy was extremely difficult and at one point she was hospitalized and then remained at home in bed on strict bed rest. This only served to heighten her disappointment following the baby's death. She suffered a severe depressive episode six months after the death which required medication which she continues with today. Although she has experienced significant improvement through therapy and the use of Prozac, she will suffer some residual depression and require medication for the remainder of her life.