An Illinois birth injury lawsuit involving claims of medical negligence by John H. Stroger Hospital employees was settled for $6.25 million. Because Stroger Hospital is a Cook County hospital, the Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit was brought against Cook County itself and not the hospital. Maria Rodriguez, as mother and next friend of Angel Gutierrez, a minor v. County of Cook, No. 07 L 13386.
In a traditional medical malpractice claim defense attorneys representing the hospital or doctor are typically hired directly by either the hospital or insurance company. However, when the facility is either a state-funded institution, like Stroger Hospital, then the defense attorneys are from the state’s attorneys office. Thomas Rieck, assistant Cook County state’s attorney, represented the defendants’ claims in Rodriguez. Another important wrinkle in this setting is the fact that there is a statute, the Local Governmental and Government Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/1-101, et seq. (Illinois Tort Immunity Act), which essentially allows the possibility of recovery against a Cook County hospital only if the hospital were found to be negligent in the treatment of a patient, but not liable if the hospital chose not to order tests or it was negligent because it misdiagnosed a patient. Michigan Avenue National Bank v. Cook County, 191 Ill. 2d 493 (2000) is the leading case interpreting the Illinois statute on immunity.
The plaintiff’s birth injury complaint alleged that the doctors at Stroger Hospital failed to respond adequately to the fetal heart rate decelerations at birth. Instead of recognizing the need for a quick delivery, the doctors attempted to correct the decelerations through the use of oxygen, amnioinfusion, and by changing the mother’s position. However, none of these measures were effective.
The baby was born with brain damage, which the plaintiff claimed was a result of the delay in the delivery which caused a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain. Not only has he been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, but also is ventilator dependent, cortically blind, and on permanent tube feedings.
Another interesting aspect of the Rodriguez case is that the mother was presenting to Stroger Hospital for an induction of labor. Typically an induction is scheduled when the baby is past its estimated due date. Therefore there would be no risk of the baby being preterm and in theory less resistance to delivering the baby than in someone who is only at 30 weeks gestation.
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