Mr. Dondes represented a neonatologist and a pediatrician. The infant was born at a local hospital at nearly 35 weeks old. Our neonatologist was called to evaluate the infant for admission to the special care nursery. He evaluated the infant and opined that he appeared to be older than his estimated gestational age and did not require admission to the special care nursery. Rather he could go to the regular nursery. The neonatologist never saw the infant again. Instead he was followed by a pediatrician who was not our client who was selected by the delivering Ob/Gyn (this pediatrician settled prior to trial for $2.2 million). The infant remained in the nursery until he was discharged home 2 days later. The admission was unremarkable except for some slight jaundice. Bilirubin was not checked.
Three days later the child’s mother claimed the infant was yellow and called our client a pediatrician (who she had never spoken with before). The mother alleged she told our client the infant was premature, yellow and not feeding well. The mother claimed our client advised her to stop breast feeding and go to bottle feeds and bring the infant in to see her the following afternoon. Our client claims the mother merely called to introduce herself and inform her she would be using her services as pediatrician. She denied being told by the mother that the infant was yellow or not feeding well.
Early the next morning the mother brought the baby to the hospital. His bilirubin was 37. The infant was transferred to another hospital where he underwent blood exchanges. He suffered kernicterus (brain damage) from elevated bilirubin. He was left with cognitive and physical deficits including an inability to walk, talk or eat. He will require around the clock supervision.
Plaintiff claimed our neonatologist failed to order a bilirubin level and further failed to admit the infant to the special care nursery where he would have received closer supervision. It was also claimed that he failed in his duties as Director of the neonatal unit to implement proper procedures regarding hyperbilirubinemia. She alleged that our client failed to immediately refer the child to the ER.
Mr. Dondes argued that admission to the special care unit was not necessary given the infant’s weight (over 6 lbs.) and the results of the physical examination. Once admitted, responsibility for the infant rested with the pediatrician assigned by the Ob/Gyn. Mr. Dondes argued that the standard of care at the time did not require mandatory universal bilirubin testing. He argued that the written policies were in place and were appropriate. With regard to the pediatrician’s alleged negligence, Mr. Dondes argued that our client pediatrician’s version of the phone call was more credible.
After the close of evidence, the case was submitted to the jury which came back with a defense verdict for both doctors. The co-defendant hospital settled prior to the resolution of the verdict sheet for $100,000.