Lisa Ewing and her son Isaiah were awarded a record $53 million as the result of a 2013 lawsuit filed against the University of Chicago Medical Center after Isaiah was born with a brain injury, leaving him unable to walk or talk. This is the largest birth injury verdict recorded in Cook County–the result of a 4-hour jury deliberation.
According to the lawsuit, Lisa Ewing arrived at the hospital about 40 weeks pregnant feeling limited movement from her baby. Hospital protocol–including monitoring the mother and baby, ordering a timely C-section, obtaining critical cord blood gases, assessing fetal heart rate patterns–were not followed and as many as 20 missteps occurred. As a result, Isaiah Ewing suffered 12 hours of fetal distress during an unnecessarily prolonged delivery. According to records, Isaiah was not breathing when he was born on April 20, 2004. Physicians rushed him to the neonatal intensive care where he was placed on life support. Weeks of critical care followed.
As a 12-year-old, Isaiah has severe cerebral palsy and relies on a wheelchair and on his mother for feeding, bathing, and dressing. His prognosis includes a shorter-than-average life span and round-the-clock daily care for the rest of his life.
According to Ewings’ lawyer, the hospital has refused to provide any clear explanation for the decisions made the day of Isaiah’s birth. Additionally, they have offered no apology and taken no responsibility.
The jury decided Isaiah’s injuries were the primary result of not being properly attended to by doctors and nurses. Had hospital personnel followed protocol, the jury believes they would have caught and responded to Isaiah’s fetal distress and conducted a timely C-section. Their mistakes will result in two lives being radically changed. Of the $53 million, $28 million was awarded for future caretaking expenses, and $7.2 million will go toward future medical care.
The hospital maintains Isaiah and his mother were treated for an infection that can cause cerebral palsy. Additionally, they insist Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels, indicating the injury could not be connected to the care Lisa Ewing received. The University of Chicago Hospital quickly appealed the decision and claims the jury was improperly influenced by Ewings’ lawyer during the proceedings.