Family wins $53 million malpractice trial against UCMC

By SONIA SCHLESINGER
Herald Intern

A Cook County jury awarded $53 million to a 12-year old boy and his mother, Thursday, June 30, as a result of their 2013 lawsuit against the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). This is the largest medical malpractice suit in Cook County history, according to prosecuting attorney Geoffrey Fieger.

The boy, Isaiah Ewing, was born in 2004 at UCMC with a severe brain injury after nearly 12 hours in fetal distress. He now lives in a wheelchair; his mother, Lisa Ewing, feeds and dresses him. The $53 million sum includes $28.8 million for caretaking and $7.2 million for future medical expenses.

The Ewings’ lawsuit, represented by Fieger, detailed UCMC doctors’ and nurses’ neglect of the mother and child, from failure to recognize abnormal fetal heart rate to failure to perform a timely cesarean section.

At a June 30 news conference following the jury’s announcement of the verdict, Fieger told reporters that Ewing had not experienced any problems in her pregnancy prior to her son’s birth. He explained that UCMC records indicate Isaiah’s suffocation due to lack of oxygen at birth rather than the hospital’s claim that he had contracted a phantom brain infection they never could have detected.

“It’s complete nonsense, all of the records say he was suffocated at birth and they made a phony claim at the trial that the records were lies,” Fieger said in an interview with the Herald. “The child, Isaiah, was taken immediately to the neonatal Intensive Care Unit and they diagnosed him as suffering for asphyxia and that was the diagnosis for 12 years.”

During the suit, the hospital filed for mistrial. A UCMC statement following the announcement of the verdict said the Michigan appellate court had deemed Feiger’s tactics “an attempt to incite the jury to heap upon the defendant the moral outrage that is now reserved for the Nazis.”

Lorna Wong, director of media relations for UCMC, said in the statement that the defendant believes Fieger’s improper conduct influenced the decision.

“When [the jury doesn’t] believe that the records are false, to then say blame the lawyer, that’s laughable,” Fieger said. “It should have been higher than $53 million but that’s how it works in America. If you have money you can say anything.”

hpherald@hpherald.com