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Birth Injury Case Alleges Negligence Led to Infant’s Brain Damage

mother holding babyA legal battle of insurance companies has revealed a birth injury lawsuit involving a serious type of brain damage caused by kernicterus. The original plaintiffs in this lawsuit allege medical negligence and failure to diagnose jaundice in a timely fashion led to the development of kernicterus in their newborn child. The condition was diagnosed in July 2006, and the lawsuit was filed on behalf of the child by the parents in April 2007.

The lawsuit was filed against the physician and physician’s assistant overseeing the mother and child, as well as the hospital where the child was born and subsequently treated. A jury determined the plaintiffs failed to provide a compelling case against the physician’s assistant, but ruled in favor of the plaintiff against the physician and hospital. The amount of the jury verdict was $6.25 million.

Insurance companies at odds over payment

The original insurance company for the defendants paid $1 million in partial satisfaction of the jury’s decision. The physician and hospital then filed a case against the insurance company, claiming the company acted in “bad faith” by refusing to pay the rest of the award. The original insurance company then filed a legal complaint against their own carrier, stating the second company failed to fulfill its responsibilities and pay the rest of the original plaintiff’s jury award.

While the insurance companies continue to work out their differences in court, the focus of this case turns to a serious condition known as kernicterus. This condition, characterized by abnormally high levels of bilirubin, typically develops when jaundice goes undetected or untreated in a young child. Jaundice is a fairly common condition among newborns that is typically characterized by yellowing of the eyes and skin. Other signs of jaundice may be difficulty waking, poor eating and an absence of messy diapers.

Untreated jaundice leads to kernicterus

When jaundice is not treated promptly and properly, the problem can lead to the more serious condition known as kernicterus. Symptoms of kernicterus might include difficulty waking a baby, a high-pitched cry and decreased muscle tone. Babies with kernicterus may also frequently arch their heads back. Some will also develop a fever and a few may even experience seizures as a result of their condition.

Kernicterus is a serious condition that can lead to significant brain damage and hearing loss. In severe cases, death may even be the result. Because the condition is considered dangerous, it is important for medical personnel to detect the telltale signs off jaundice and treat it promptly. Fast effective treatment for jaundice is usually the best way to prevent kernicterus from developing.

Liability determined in birth injury lawsuit

In this kernicterus lawsuit, the plaintiffs were able to prove medical negligence on the part of both the physician overseeing the labor and delivery and the hospital where the birth took place. The plaintiff received a large jury award, although court battles may keep them from seeing any type of money for some time. Although there is a battle between insurance companies as to which entity is responsible for paying the award, there appears to be little argument about the court’s findings that negligence on the part of medical personnel led to a diagnosis of kernicterus and subsequent brain damage in this child.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Facts about Jaundice and Kernicterus,

  2. Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas City, Introduction: Jaundice and Kernicterus,

  3. Medline Plus, Kernicterus,

  4. Medscape, Kernicterus,