Articles Posted in Birth Injury

The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a ruling by a Cook County associate judge who denied a forum non conveniens challenge brought by Motorola in Joseph Erwin, Jr., et al. v. Motorola, Inc., No. 1-09-2847. The Illinois birth injury lawsuit involved allegations that the plaintiffs’ children suffered birth defects as a result of their parents’ exposure to hazardous chemicals in the course of their employment in Motorola’s semiconductor industry “clean rooms”.

Motorola’s motion involved a request of a change of venue, citing forum non conveniens rules to support its motion in the birth defect lawsuit. Forum non conveniens is Latin for “inconvenient forum” and are applicable when a lawsuit is filed in a location that is inconvenient for parties or witnesses. Under this principle, a judge is allowed to change a case’s venue if a party can make a substantial case for its inconvenience.

Erwin was filed in a Circuit Court of Cook County court on the basis that Motorola’s headquarters are in Schaumburg, Illinois. However, Motorola argued that a more appropriate venue was Travis County, Texas, on the basis that much of the plaintiffs’ exposure to the hazardous chemicals took place in that county. It submitted a motion to dismiss the birth injury lawsuit on the basis of forum non conveniens, which the circuit court judge denied. Motorola then appealed this decision to the Illinois Appellate Court.

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A Cook County birth injury lawsuit that alleged a baby boy had suffered severe brain damage during a delay in his birth was settled. The medical malpractice lawsuit was against Northwest Community Hospital, a nurse midwife, and the midwife’s employer. The case was settled and approved by a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

What was particularly interesting about the case was that the delivery was actually a waterbirth. A waterbirth is a birthing method wherein the mother is immersed in a small pool of warm water. Proponents of this method argue that it is safe and offers improved pain relief for the mother and less trauma for the baby.

In this particular Cook County birth injury case, the baby’s shoulder became trapped during the end of the delivery. The plaintiff alleged that the nurse midwife and assisting nurses did not drain the birth tub quickly enough to use the standard birthing maneuvers to free the baby’s shoulder, and that their actions delayed the baby’s delivery. Any delay in delivery can result in harm to the baby, and in this case the plaintiff alleged that the delay resulted in oxygen deprivation and brain damage in the form of cerebral palsy.

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A Cook County medical malpractice case was settled for $9.5 million after an injured child’s parents reached an agreement with his delivering obstetrician, Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, Elmhurst Clinic, LLC, and Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare. The Northern Trust Co. et al. v. Nirali Ghia, M.D., Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, et al., Case No. 04 L 7500, Circuit Court of Cook County.

In December, 2002, the now six year-old boy’s mother arrived at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital to induce labor. However, the labor did not run smoothly, and after over four hours had elapsed the medical providers opted to perform a cesarean section. When the baby boy was delivered it was found that he had cerebral palsy.

The parents’ Cook County birth injury complaint alleged that the obstetrician had failed to adequately assess and recognize that the fetus was not tolerating the stress of labor. During labor and delivery it is imperative that the nursing and medical staff not only monitor the baby and mother’s condition, but also properly interrupts the information available.

The plaintiffs further alleged that a four hour delay in performing the cesarean section led to the child’s permanent brain injury. The baby boy now suffers from cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and body movement.

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In the many years that I have practiced medical malpractice in Cook County and Illinois, my clients have warned me that the pertinant medical records in their case had been falsified, changed, deleted or simply removed from the hospital and medical charts.

In Illinois, the “intentional destruction, mutilation, alteration or concealment of evidence” is called spoliation of evidence. If medical records were to be destroyed or altered, the Illinois Supreme Court can impose a sanction upon any party who unreasonably refuses to comply with any discovery rule or order entered pursuant to the Illinois Supreme Court Rules. The court has the power to stay the proceedings pending compliance; default the case, barring further pleading related to the issue; dismiss a claim or counterclaim related to that issue; exclude testimony related to the issue; to strike any relevant portion of the offending party’s pleadings and enter judgment on the issue; and to enter a default judgment or dismissal against the offending party.

In 1995, the Illinois Supreme Court recognized a separate cause of action for negligent spoliation of evidence. So if your medical records in a medical malpractice case were altered by the medical staff, then you could file a separate lawsuit regarding the altered evidence. And because adequate remedies for the destruction of evidence already exists under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 219, a new tort wasn’t created. Instead, the Supreme Court held that an action for negligent spoliation could be brought under existing negligence law.

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A Cook County jury verdict was entered in favor of the University of Chicago Hospitals in a 2005 trial and was upheld on appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court (Kashief Weathers et al. v. University of Chicago Hospitals, et al., No. 1-061726). In the case, several doctors were accused of causing brain damage to an infant born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. The plaintiff child now suffers from cerebral palsy and severe brain damage.

The baby’s mother brought an Illinois birth injury malpractice claim against University of Chicago Hospital alleging that defendant doctors failed to relieve the trauma caused by his umbilical cord during his birth in October 1988. There were also allegations that the doctors didn’t timely treat the baby’s seizures after his birth.

The plaintiffs’ obstetric expert testified that the defendant doctors deviated from the standard of care by not performing a cesarean section, which would have sped up the delivery. The expert felt that a quick delivery could have changed the child’s outcome because the brain damage likely occurred at some time during labor.

But the defense expert, a pediatric neurologist, disagreed. He felt that a cesarean section would not have made a difference because in his opinion the baby was injured at least one day prior to his birth. So by the time his mother was in labor there was nothing the doctors could have done to alter his outcome.

The trial jury sided with the defense and entered a verdict in favor of the University of Chicago Hospitals. The plaintiff brought the case for appeal on several counts.

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