Medical Malpractice

Jury Hands Up $26M Med Mal Verdict in Case of Child Born Deaf

By Andrew Denney

A jury in a medical malpractice case awarded more than $26 million to a 7-year-old girl who was born deaf and who suffers from other health problems, issues that her attorney argued could have been mitigated with earlier monitoring of changes in her mother’s cervix.

After a monthlong trial, a jury of three men and three women awarded Danielle Madden-Buck and her daughter Aleigha Buck $4 million for past pain and suffering, $20 million for future pain and suffering and about $1.6 million for lost future wages.

The jury, which deliberated for eight hours, also awarded $500,000 for the wrongful death of Aleigha’s twin sister Madelyn Buck, who died 28 days after childbirth.

The awards were subject to a high-low agreement between the parties and thus the defendant, Maimonides Medical Center, cannot appeal. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ellen Spodek presided over the case.

On Feb. 9, 2010, Madden-Buck visited Maimonides on two separate occasions complaining of painful cramping and brownish discharge, but was sent home each time without instructions.

One week later, a sonogram revealed that Madden-Buck’s cervix had shortened from three centimeters to one centimeter.

She delivered the twins later that month while they were still premature; Aleigha suffered hearing loss and vocal cord paralysis and now communicates through sign language and hearing aids.

James Wilkens, who represented Madden-Buck and who is of counsel to Sullivan Papain, argued that ordering bedrest and prescribing hormones such as tocolytics could have mitigated the risks of the delivery.

Wilkens said in an interview that the state’s Medical Indemnity Fund is picking up the tab for Aleigha’s medical bills, and thus the verdict “will really protect this child’s life.”

Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker partner Lois Ottombrio appeared for the defendants. She referred questions to the hospital, which said in an emailed statement that it is “disappointed in the verdict but that it understands “how hard it is for jurors to send a family home without monetary compensation when children are involved.”

“We believe excellent care was provided, and presented very credible evidence to support that point—credible enough that the family’s own attorneys chose to enter into a bracketed settlement before the jury returned its verdict,” the hospital told the New York Post.

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