New York Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit Results in $100M Award

A birth injury lawsuit filed against a now-defunct New York hospital has resulted in a $100 million damage award for the family of teen who suffered from cerebral palsy from medical mistakes made during delivery. 

The complaint was filed by the family of Stephanie Debes, who is now 17 years old and is confined to a wheelchair due to brain damage suffered during birth.

Stephanie Debes was born three months early, along with her twin sister Amanda, at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Staten Island. The lawsuit alleges that the delivery was botched, resulting in Stephanie suffering cerebral palsy, while Amanda was uninjured.

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According to the lawsuit, hospital staff failed to notice that the twins’ mother was going through contractions before she went into labor, leading to the girls’ early delivery. The family claims that their mother, Catherine, complained about the contractions but was ignored and just given Benadryl.

The jury awarded the family $103 million for pain and suffering, lost wages and future medical expenses, placing liability on the hospital itself. Two individual doctors who were sued in the lawsuit were not found to be liable. Because the hospital went out of business in 2010, the actual payments will be limited to its insurance coverage, which is expected to total about $16 million, according to a report by the New York Post.

Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury that can occur before, during or shortly after birth. If the brain of a baby is deprived of oxygen, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities.

Although cerebral palsy can occur without a medical mistake, when the exercise of the proper standards of medical care could have prevented the child’s brain from being deprived of oxygen, cerebral palsy negligence lawsuits are often filed to obtain compensation for the child.

The case comes amid a string of verdicts throughout the United States in recent months, which have awarded substantial sums to families of children with cerebral palsy, including awards of $21 million and $55 million delivered in two lawsuits that went to trial in Baltimore City since June. In May, a Pennsylvania jury awarded $78.5 million to the family of a child who developed cerebral palsy due to medical malpractice during delivery and a California couple was awarded $74 million in April 2012, after their child developed cerebral palsy from a birth injury.

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