Law firm Duffy & Duffy, PLLC represented the plaintiff and his family in a negligence case against Jacobi Medical Center in Bronx, New York.

“This $80 million verdict is one of the largest in history,” said Michael E. Duffy, managing partner and general counsel at Duffy & Duffy, PLLC. “It will ensure that our client will be able to receive the proper care he needs for the rest of his life, which is a great relief for his family.”

Case Background

The case began in 2003 when the plaintiff was born. His birth was extremely premature, occurring at just 23 weeks gestation.

His mother had a documented medical history of an insufficient cervix. Ordinarily, the cervix plays an important role in keeping a developing fetus, along with the placenta and other key organs, safely inside the uterus so that gestation can proceed. An insufficient cervix, however, cannot perform this function.

Physicians often treat an insufficient cervix, also known as an incompetent cervix, with cerclage. Cervical cerclage is a procedure in which the cervix is reinforced with sutures to prevent preterm birth. Previously, the plaintiff’s mother had her insufficient cervix successfully treated with a cerclage—another fact documented in her medical history.

Despite this information, physicians at the High-Risk Obstetrical Clinic at Jacobi Medical Center decided not to perform a cerclage. Physicians also did not perform several tests, including a serial transvaginal ultrasound to check on cervical length. When the plaintiff’s mother presented with a short cervix at 21 weeks gestation, physicians once again declined to perform a rescue cerclage.

Negligence and Resulting Birth Injuries

The plaintiff’s mother’s medical history strongly indicated that proper monitoring for cervical length and treatment like cerclage was necessary to help her carry her pregnancy to term. Her physicians failed to heed this information. As a result, the plaintiff’s mother was unable to carry the plaintiff to term. The plaintiff was born in 2003 at just 23 weeks gestation.

Due to his extremely preterm birth, the plaintiff spent the first 16 months of his life in various medical centers. He required a tracheostomy and a feeding tube, along with other lifesaving care.

The plaintiff’s injuries are severe, and many are permanent. They include respiratory distress syndrome, chronic lung disease, cerebral palsy, profound intellectual disability, and global developmental delays. Had the plaintiff’s mother received the care her medical history indicated, the plaintiff likely would have escaped injury by developing normally within the uterus, rather than facing preterm birth.

“Our client and his family suffered traumatic and life-altering consequences due to the actions of the staff at Jacobi Medical Center,” said Jim LiCalzi, Lead Trial Counsel at Duffy & Duffy, PLLC. “If the doctors had provided our client’s mother with the proper medical care required under the circumstances, this tragedy could have been prevented.”

The Third-Party Action

The NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation owns and operates Jacobi Medical Center. During the case, the NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation filed a third-party claim against St. Barnabas Hospital, the site of the plaintiff’s birth, and its physicians.

The third-party claim alleged that St. Barnabas and its physicians were negligent in delaying the delivery of the infant plaintiff, due to the presence of chorioamnionitis. NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation claimed that this delay caused the plaintiff’s injuries—not the omissions of Jacobi’s physicians.

At trial, however, the jury found that St. Barnabas Hospital and its physicians were not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Rather, the jury found that Jacobi Medical Center and its physicians were solely responsible for the lifelong harm the plaintiff had suffered.

Key Takeaways for Attorneys

In this case, the plaintiff’s mother had a documented medical history in which she had required the sort of testing and treatment that Jacobi’s physicians failed to provide. The testing and treatment indicated were also required to prevent precisely the sort of consequences that the plaintiff suffered.

Clear knowledge of the factors at play and the consequences of a mistake are extremely helpful in establishing negligence. Yet this case also featured another factor that assisted the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the jury: a supportive family.

In this case, the team at Duffy & Duffy, PLLC relied not only on the facts of the case but also on the family’s support of the plaintiff and their intimate understanding of his needs, both now and in the future. This support provided help for the plaintiff. Their support also helped attorneys demonstrate to the jury that the plaintiff’s injuries didn’t only affect him. They also affected his family.

“The incredible result in this case and the truly awe-inspiring love and support this child’s family provides assures that, after a long ordeal, this young man will have everything that he needs to live comfortably,” says attorney Michael Duffy.

When presenting a case to the court, the facts and the law are essential. To reach a jury, supporting facts and law with the emotional and personal impact of a case can help jurors see exactly how deep the consequences of negligence go—and rule accordingly.

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