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$8.3 million medical malpractice award against federally supported clinic in Christopher appealed

Federal Court

By The Madison County Record | Oct 23, 2019

EAST ST. LOUIS — Attorneys for the federal government are appealing an $8.3 million award to the family of a boy injured at birth in 2014 at a federally supported clinic in Christopher, Ill.

Notice was filed Oct. 21, seeking to reverse judgment entered by Chief District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel for the family of five-year-old Steven Zhao.

During delivery, the child suffered injury to his brachial plexus, the bundle of nerves that extend from the throat portion of his cord, which permanently damaged his right shoulder, arm and hand. He was stuck by the shoulders in his mother's birth canal for nine minutes during his delivery at Christopher Greater Area Rural Health Planning Corporation, according to background provided in Rosenstengel's order.

Steven Zhao's mother, Yong Juan "Maggie" Zhao sued the federal government under the Federal Tort Claims Act, claiming that she told healthcare providers at the time that she wanted a cesarean section to deliver her son, who weighed more than 11 pounds. Trial was held in April, and Rosenstengel entered judgment on Aug. 22. The family is represented by Tom Keefe of Swansea.

Rosenstengel awarded the Zhaos almost $65,000 in past medical expenses, $80,000 in future medical expenses, more than $2.6 million in future lost earning, $1.5 million for disfigurement, and $2 million each for loss of a normal life, pain, suffering and emotional distress. The total award was $8,297,967.77.

Attorneys for the U.S. had urged Rosenstengel to consider damages handed down in similar cases in which newborns were injured during delivery. 

But in her memorandum and order, Rosenstengel wrote that some of those previous cases were difficult to apply because, among other things, information about the cases was limited, they involved settlements and involved different injuries.

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U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

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