Ms. Smith, a woman in her 35th week of pregnancy, arrived at True North Hospital, an inner city Chicago hospital, at 3:00 am. On admission to the hospital, Ms. Smith was having contractions every 5 minutes. She conceded that she had had no previous prenatal care and was addicted to drugs. Ms. Smith was admitted to Labor and Delivery, where she was cared for by Nurse Drew, an experienced nurse.
The fetal heart monitor strips initially showed no fetal distress. At 4:00 am however, Ms. Smith, who had had a previous C-section, reported intense abdominal pain. Nurse Drew performed a vaginal exam, and discovered bright red blood. The fetal heart strips began showing fetal distress. Nurse Drew tried turning the patient and giving oxygen. After about 5 minutes, when these measures did not improve the strips, she paged the attending OB-GYN, Dr. Hardy, who was delivering another baby. Nurse Drews notes indicate she told Dr. Hardy that the strips were ominous, that the patient reported pain, and that there was a bloody show. This was properly recorded as a late entry in accordance with the hospital's policies. Dr. Hardy said he was just finishing up and would be right there. When he did not arrive within 10 minutes, Nurse Drew paged Dr. Hardy again, and told him the strips were getting worse. Dr. Hardy arrived within 1 minute. He immediately diagnosed a "possible uterine rupture" and ordered a "stat" C-section. The baby was delivered 12 minutes after the order. Following delivery, Dr. Hardy was overheard telling the neonatologist he would have come sooner if Nurse Drew had told him about the blood and pain, but that he did not believe any delay was the cause of the baby's depressed condition at birth.
Baby Sam was born with APGAR scores of 1, 4, and 7, at one, five, and ten minutes. He began having seizures within 5 minutes of birth, which were later controlled by medication. There were clinical signs of acute hypoxia, as well as some symptoms consistent with Ms. Smiths drug addiction. Subsequently, Sam was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic. He has severe cognitive and developmental delays, and will require substantial assistance for his activities of daily living.
Suit was filed against True North Hospital and Dr. Hardy, the attending OB. Dr. Hardy, who was not employed by the hospital, has already settled for $1 million. (Assume that in this jurisdiction, if True North is found liable, it will receive a credit in this amount against the jurys award.) Ms. Smith is represented by Mr. Chase, a lawyer whose practice is focused on slip and falls and DUI's.
Based on your review of the evidence and potential arguments, your impressions of the fact and expert witnesses, the nature of Baby Sams injuries, True Norths reputation in the community, your experience with juries and damage awards in this locale, and your opinion of opposing counsel, you have made the following assessments:
- There is a "good chance" the jury will find that Nurse Drew (and thus the hospital) breached the standard of care, though its "far from a sure thing."
- If the jury finds a breach by Nurse Drew, "in all likelihood" it will go on to find that her negligence was the cause of Baby Sams injuries.
- Assuming liability, a jury will "most likely" award around $7.5 million in economic damages (for past and future in-home care, medicals, and lost earnings), though there is "a chance" it will award only around $4 million. On the other hand, it "certainly could" hit the defendant for $10 million or more.
- As for non-economic damages (for pain and suffering, etc.), the jury will "probably" come in between $2 and $5 million, awarding toward the upper end if it had also made a large award for economic damages, and toward the lower end otherwise.
What would be a reasonable settlement value?
Write down your "gut feel" answer first and then we will analyze this case with one of our Litigation Risk Analysis Software Models.
Selecting The Right Model
Litigation Risk Analysis Software Models come with a front-end "tree selector" program that asks you a few questions about your claim and then automatically displays the tree that best fits your problem. We will use this "tree-selector" program to get the right tree for Baby Sam's claim against True North Hospital. In addition, as you go through the questions on the next three screens, you should make note of all the possible combinations of issues that our models can analyze.
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