Ontario Court Awards $14.9 Million in Medical Malpractice Case.
Infant Rhonda Cheung had a challenging birth, and at 35 weeks of pregnancy, she was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). As the fetus’ discomfort increased, a quick emergency C-section was carried out. This intervention came too late to reverse the serious brain damage that resulted from almost 30 minutes without oxygen, leaving the once-promising newborn totally dependent on others for all aspects of survival.
When she was born, Rhonda was born in poor condition, having nearly no heartbeat for 28 minutes. After being discharged, the child was able to be breastfed and bottle-fed. However, at two and a half months of age, she had a seizure, which revealed severe problems.
Rhonda had severe brain damage and was diagnosed with hypotonic cerebral palsy and development delay. She was unable to eat, walk, or talk, and required to be fed through a tube.
When first brought to court, a jury found that Rhonda’s disabilities were caused by the defendant’s doctors’ inability to provide the standard of care expected of medical professionals caring for pregnant women.
The jury’s conclusion that it violated the standard of care by failing to move the delivery date up was uncontested. The plaintiffs’ and defendants’ competing ideas concerning causation were included in the trial’s causation evidence.
According to the plaintiffs, Rhonda’s brain damage was brought on by a lack of oxygen to the brain in the moments before delivery. The defense claimed that Rhonda’s brain damage happened more than two months after birth, probably as a result of a congenital disease, and that the defendants’ handling of her pregnancy or delivery was not to blame for her disabilities.
The trial judge came to the conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict and emphasized the jury’s failure to provide information on the precise causes of the injury and its complex physiological process. The majority of the Divisional Court agreed with this decision, although one judge dissented.
In the end, the Ontario Court of Appeal rejected pleas for a new trial and allowed the appeal, finding that the trial judge had erred by refusing to implement the jury’s verdict. Additionally, the Court heartily approved the plaintiffs’ request for $14.9 million.
Read the full case here.
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