$46.5 Million Jury Verdict for Failure to Diagnose, Treat Jaundice of Newborn

Kara Smalls was delivered by way of a Cesarean section surgery at Ouachita County Medical Center. Two hours after her birth, Kara’s bilirubin level was 5.5, which is an indication of high risk of hyperbilirubinemia.

Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition in a newborn in which there is too much bilirubin in the blood. When red blood cells break down, a substance known as bilirubin is formed. Babies are not easily able to rid themselves of bilirubin, and it can build up in the blood and other tissues of a baby’s body. The symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia are jaundice, which includes yellow tinged skin and the whites of the eyes, normally starting at the head and spreading down the body. The baby can also run a fever or be fatigued. Other symptoms include weight loss, vomiting and paler than usual stools. Jaundice in a newborn is fairly common, particularly in babies born before 38 weeks gestation or preterm babies.Infant jaundice occurs most times because the baby’s liver isn’t mature enough to rid itself of bilirubin in the bloodstream.

In this case, over the next two days, nurses noted that Kara was mildly jaundiced. Nevertheless, the family physician, Dr. Jonathan Lewis, discharged the baby instructing her mother that everything was normal and that she should follow up with him in ten days.

Following Kara’s discharge, she became increasingly yellow and lethargic. Kara’s mother called Dr. Lewis’s clinic but was told that Kara would be seen four days later. Before the appointment, however, Kara was taken to see Dr. Lewis on an urgent basis.

Later testing revealed a bilirubin level of 33.4, which indicated severe bilirubinemia. Despite photo-therapy, placing the baby under special lights, Kara was diagnosed as having irreversible brain damage resulting from jaundice. Kara is now three-years-old. She has normal cognitive function, but cannot walk, talk or feed herself.

Kara’s parents, individually and on Kara’s behalf, sued Dr. Lewis and the hospital, Ouachita County Medical Center, alleging they chose not to order a repeat bilirubin test before Kara’s discharge, failed to treat her with timely photo-therapy and chose not to timely see Kara in light of her post-discharge symptoms.

The Smalls family claimed that Kara was at high risk of hyperbilirubinemia due to her older sister’s diagnosis with the same condition, her African-American heritage and her incompatibility with her mother’s blood type.

The jury signed a verdict for $46.5 million apportioning liability at 85% on Dr. Lewis and 15% to the medical center.

The attorneys who handled successfully this tragic case of medical negligence were Stuart N. Ratzan, Stuart J. Weissman, Jim Lyons, Kimberly Boldt and Mario Giommoni.

Smalls v. Ouachita County Medical Center, No. 70 CV-16-364-4 (Ark. Cir. Ct. Union County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling birth trauma injury lawsuits, misdiagnosis of birth injury lawsuits, hospital negligence lawsuits, physical negligence lawsuits, labor and delivery negligence cases, birth brain damage lawsuits and traumatic brain injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Oak Lawn, Blue Island, Harvey, Niles, Oak Forest, Northlake, Norridge, Lincolnwood, Lynwood, Hoffman Estates, Country Club Hills, Calumet City, Blue Island, Bedford Park, Barrington Hills, Richton Park, Stickney, Sauk Village, Roselle, Riverside, Prospect Heights, Maywood, Chicago (Norwood Park, Englewood, Edison Park, Greek Town, North Center, Albany Park, Rogers Park, Rosehill, Uptown, Edgewater, Lakeview, Gold Coast, Near North, Chinatown, South Loop, West Town, Woodlawn, Grand Crossing, Chatham, Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, South Chicago, East Side), Calumet City and Arlington Heights, Ill.

Related blog posts:

$33.81 Million Judgment Entered for Brain Damaged Baby Whose Birth Was Delayed When C-Section Was an Option

$5 Million Settlement in Brain Injured Baby Case

$4 Million Settlement for Brain Injury to Infant for Failing to Monitor Oxygen Level