The Turkewitz Law Firm

New York Personal Injury Attorney ♦ Medical Malpractice ♦ Trial Lawyer

Serving Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Rockland, Dutchess, Westchester, Nassau & Suffolk Counties
Eric Turkewitz
228 E. 45 St., 17th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Phone: (212) 983-5900

Bronx Medical Malpractice – Brain Damage of Mother During Childbirth and Subsequent Death

Settlement: $7.0M Settlement for mother

$8.0 Settlement for baby

Case: V.W. v. Bronx Lebanon Hospital and several doctors


Summary:

This medical malpractice case involved brain damage during childbirth to both the mother and the baby. The baby was institutionalized. The mother died almost six years later as a result of her injuries.

Representation:

Eric Turkewitz of the Turkewitz Law Firm represented the mother.

Dom Penson of Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson represented the baby.

Facts:

The mother was admitted to Bronx Lebanon Hospital on December 18, 2006 as a high-risk pregnancy due to high blood pressure (preeclampsia). She was 30 weeks pregnant at the time.

The treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.

The hospital, however, via a number of different doctors that were treating her, instead delayed the delivery, even when signs of fetal distress occurred. The hospital delayed further even after a “stat” c-section was ordered.

After the baby was surgically removed via c-section, the mother’s anesthesia prematurely wore off. The anesthesiologist attempted to establish an airway for the mother via intubation. But the surgeon testified that the mother’s abdomen filled with air, an indication that she had not been properly intubated, and that the improper intubation was not promptly recognized by the anesthesiologist. The mother subsequently coded twice, and was left profoundly brain damaged.

The baby alleged that she too was brain damaged as a result of the failure to promptly deliver.

The mother was institutionalized thereafter and died in September 2012.

The damages argued were for:

  • Pain and suffering for almost six years while in an institution. Defendants claimed that she was in a persistent vegetative state and didn’t have any level of awareness, and therefore had no “conscious” pain and suffering. Plaintiff countered that she was on pain medications, which would not be needed if she was in a coma, and made audible noises with grimaces when touched.
  • Loss of parental guidance, nurture and support to the brain damaged infant.
  • Loss of parental guidance, nurture and support to another child with neurological injuries (a foster child that the mother had adopted).
  • Loss of parental advice, guidance, nurture and support to an adult child with legal difficulties who lost his primary emotional support.
  • Spousal wrongful death claim.
  • Loss of consortium for the husband, which he waived upon settlement.

The mother’s settlement was paid by the hospital and the anesthesiologist.

Complicating Issues in the Litigation:

  • The split representation of mother and baby was due to ongoing difficulties between the surviving husband, who is a convicted felon, and the mother’s family. This resulted in the sister of the birth mother representing her sister both as guardian while alive and as administrator of the estate after death. The surviving spouse represented the interests of the child in his capacity as natural guardian, as well as his own loss of consortium claim.
  • In attempting to prove that death in 2012 was due to malpractice in 2006, we attempted to obtain the records concerning her death. But those records were lost to flooding from Hurricane Sandy just weeks after she died. We relied instead on testimony from memory of the physician who had signed the death certificate who remembered the patient.
  • The federal government claimed (via a certification from the U.S. Attorney’s office) that one of the doctors that had been sued was its employee, and therefore could not be sued in state court, but had to be sued in federal court. The defendants, thereafter, tried to claim that the malpractice was the fault of this doctor. Subsequently, it was found that the certification was in error.
  • The adoption papers of one of the mother’s other children couldn’t be located by the husband, which was necessary for him to have a new legal guardian. This forced delays in the court proceedings to have an estate established after the mother died.

At one point or another, the details of this matter were heard in the following courts: Supreme Court, Surrogates Court, Family Court and the Appellate Division.

Other matters of brain injuries that this office has handled are here:

Updated: 3/2/2016
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