$7.5 million jury verdict: remittitur ordered.
Some are affirmed, some overturned, some subject to remittitur.
COREY LOVETT WAS BORN 12 WEEKS PREMATURELY AT INTERFAITH MEDICAL CENTER ON MAY 30, 2000.
The infant suffered from neonatal respiratory distress syndrome, and was placed in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where his blood oxygen and blood acidity was monitored by the hospital's staff, under the direction of Dr. Mohammed Ashir. The blood oxygen was continuously measured by a pulse oximeter, a device attached to the infant's finger, that used light to measure the amount of oxygen in the infant's blood. A respirator and breathing tube were used when it was noted that the infant could not breathe on his own. At 11 a.m., the following day the hospital's staff performed arterial blood gas analysis, to ascertain the acidity and amount of saturated gas in the sample. The test demonstrated that the pH of the infant's blood was 7.254. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Dr. Rehanna Kahn, also of the hospital's staff ordered a second arterial blood gas analysis. At 3 p.m., that afternoon, the blood oxygen saturation was over 90% according to the pulse oximeter. Shortly thereafter, hospital staff noted that the infant was suffering from a hemorrhage in the lungs. Consequently, the hospital staff cleared the blood from the lungs and then adjusted the respirator settings and breathing tube. Hospital staff then administered a paralytic to immobilize the infant and prevent him from removing the breathing apparatus. At 8 p.m., another arterial blood gas analysis was done, the result of which was a pH of 6.7, which is dangerously low. The staff then adjusted the respirator to administer more oxygen through forced breathing. The following day, medical imaging showed that the infant had suffered a brain hemorrhage and hydrocephalus, which is increased intracranial pressure on the brain caused by the accumulation of fluid The hemorrhage caused periventricular leukomalacia, the destruction of white matter of the brain. This, in turn, caused the infant to develop cerebral palsy. The infant's mother sued the hospital individually and as the mother and natural guardian of Corey. After a jury trial that lasted seven days, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs in the amount of $7,5000,000. The hospital filed a motion for an order setting aside the jury verdict and dismissing the complaint, or, alternatively, directing judgment for the hospital.
THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK ORDERED A REMITTITUR IN THE AMOUNT OF 3.5 MILLION DOLLARS.
The court ordered that unless the plaintiff consented to accept the court's order that the amount awarded the plaintiff by the jury be reduced by $3,500,000. within 30 days of service of a copy of its decision on the plaintiff, the court would order a new trial for the hospital. Editor's Note: At the time this publication went to press the 30 day period had not yet expired. Further, the court's decision was dated November 13, 2006. Again, the date of service of a copy of the decision on the plaintiff was unknown as of the time this publication went to press. The court rejected the hospital's two basic grounds upon which it sought to reverse the judgment to be entered on the jury's verdict for the plaintiff. They were with regard to negligence and causation issues. However, the court confined its decision strictly to the issue of whether an order for remittitur of damages or alternatively whether a new trial should be ordered if the plaintiff failed to consent to remittitur.
THE COURT HELD THAT HOSPITAL'S STRATEGY TO ARGUE THAT INFECTION CAUSED THE INFANT'S INJURIES WAS LITERALLY CONCEIVED ON THE EVE OF TRIAL.
The court observed that the hospital's contention that the verdict was against the weight of credible evidence and/or inconsistent and was without merit and not legally sufficient. A trial court's discretionary power to set aside a jury verdict should be undertaken with considerable caution and only where the jury could not have reached the verdict on any fair interpretation of the evidence. A court must "first conclude that there is simply no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could possibly lead rational men to the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence presented at trial." The court found that there was no inconsistency in the jury's finding that blood oxygen was not improperly monitored but other characteristics of the infant's blood were ignored by hospital staff. The court concluded that, as the plaintiff's expert medical witness testified at trial, the arterial blood gas analysis, as well as the pH level of the infant's blood, should have been performed more frequently in order to determine the infant's condition. The failure to properly monitor the blood gas and pH level had catastrophic results! Lovett v. Interfaith Medical Center, No. 50525/02 (N.Y. Supp. 11/13/2006) -NY
A. David Tammelleo JD Editor & Publisher
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|Author:||Tammelleo, A. David|
|Publication:||Hospital Law's Regan Report|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2006|
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