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$5 Million Recovery for Brain-Damaged Child for Failure to Diagnose Jaundice

In a confidential settlement offered on the first day of trial, attorneys Carol Nelson Shepherd and Daniel J. Mann obtained a $5 million recovery for a brain-damaged youngster and her family. The case arose from the failure of several physicians to diagnose and treat jaundice in a newborn infant during the first weeks of her life.

In this case, a newborn healthy baby was discharged from a hospital without any instructions to the mother about the signs and symptoms of jaundice, such as abnormal coloring and difficulty feeding. Evidence discovered by counsel showed that at the time that the infant was discharged from the hospital the day after her birth, photographs taken by the family showed differences in skin color, which should have led physicians to recognize the development of jaundice. The baby’s jaundice, tragically, went unnoticed and untreated by her doctors.

When the infant was five-days old, the private pediatrician who was scheduled to see the infant at two weeks was informed of feeding problems and skin and eye discoloration. The mother was instructed to take the infant to the hospital the following morning for bilirubin testing, which would show if the infant had jaundice. However, the urgent need for immediate testing was not communicated to the parents. When the infant was finally admitted to the hospital, the treatment for hyperbilirubinemia, an exchange transfusion, was ordered to be carried out on a stat basis, but was incomprehensively delayed for almost seven hours.

The substantial result obtained on behalf of the minor plaintiff and her family was accomplished through the taking of extensive depositions, which developed three separate theories of liability against different physicians and hospitals: (1) the failure to instruct the mother at the time of discharge on the signs of neonatal jaundice, and to recognize that the infant was beginning to present signs of jaundice; (2) the failure of the pediatrician to have the infant come to the hospital immediately for testing; and (3) the failure of the hospital physicians to timely perform the exchange transfusion.