Chicago Jury Awards $53 Million for Serious Brain Injury at Birth

What were the circumstances of the 2013 lawsuit against Univ. of Chicago Medical Center?

In a medical malpractice lawsuit filed on behalf of a boy (Isaiah Ewing) and his mother (Lisa Ewing) in 2013 against the University of Chicago Medical Center, a Cook County jury recently awarded $53 million to the pair, the biggest birth injury verdict ever awarded in Cook County. This case demonstrates the crucial importance of having a highly competent attorney at your side should you, or a loved one, suffer the consequences of medical malpractice.

The Circumstances of Isaiah’s Birth

Lisa Ewing, by all accounts, had a normal pregnancy. According to the lawsuit, there were approximately 20 mistakes made by the medical professionals at the scene when Ewing arrived at the hospital after 40 weeks, worried that she was experiencing less than normal movement of her unborn baby. The lawsuit charged that, among others, the following missteps occurred:

  • Failure to carefully monitor mother and infant
  • Failure to perform a timely Cesarean section
  • Failure to follow a chain of command
  • Failure to obtain accurate cord blood gases
  • Failure to notice abnormal fetal heart rate indicative of fetal distress

The doctors and nurses, unaware of the abnormal heart rate pattern of the fetus, should have realized the terrible dangers of fetal distress, including the hazards of hypoxia, a drop in the supply of oxygen to the fetus.

The Tragic Consequences

Isaiah Ewing was born 12 years ago with severe cerebral palsy. He lives in a wheelchair and requires his mother’s assistance to be fed, clothed, and toileted. In addition, since he and his mother live in a two-story house, she has to carry him up and down the stairs.

Though clearly the evidence shows that Isaiah was born with a severe brain injury resulting from medical negligence and poor judgment, the hospital has never apologized to the family nor acknowledged their horrific mistakes. For 12 years, the family has endured the unendurable until now, at last, there seems to be some justice. Of the $53 million awarded to the pair, $28.8 million is designated for future caretaking expenses and $7.2 million for future medical expenses. This money will, says Lisa, give her peace of mind that her son will not only be well taken care of while she is here to look after him, but after she dies.

The Hospital’s Defense

Even before the case went to the jury, the hospital filed for a mistrial, claiming that the defense attorney spoke falsely, using unfair, prejudicial characterizations of the defendant’s conduct.

Although claiming that the hospital has “great sympathy” for the family, their spokeswoman says they vigorously disagree with the jury’s verdict. The hospital maintains that both mother and baby were treated for an infection that is known to cause cerebral palsy. They also insist that Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels which would mean that he was damaged before delivery.

The plaintiffs’ attorney reports that there was no indication of the “phantom infection” that the hospital claims caused the boy’s brain damage and that the University of Chicago’s own neonatal clinic records show that Isaiah suffocated at birth, due to hypoxia.

Heartbreaking as this case is, it is a sober reminder that even at the joyous occasion of birth medical mistakes can happen and that the medical professionals and hospital involved must be held accountable. If you have suffered because of medical negligence, you need a strong medical malpractice attorney with a record of successful verdicts and settlements to help you get the compensation you deserve.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.