$3,500,000 Verdict for Undiagnosed Birth Defect Hirschprung’s disease
THE NEW JERSEY LAW JOURNAL – SUITS & DEALS
Infant C.H. v. Unnamed Pediatrician: A Morris County Judge on Aug. 2 approved a $3.5 million settlement to a Flanders couple whose son was left with neurological damage due to alleged negligence of a pediatrician shortly after his birth.
Infant plaintiff, C.H. was born to Doris and Jason Holloman on Aug. 2, 1994, at Morristown Memorial Hospital and discharged as a well baby on Aug. 6. But the plaintiffs’ lawyer says the child suffered from Hirschprung’s disease, a lack of nerve cells in a portion of the bowel resulting in obstructed bowel movements.
Plaintiff’s attorney says the infant’s failure to pass a stool within his first 24 hours, and at most, his first 48 hours, required the pediatrician to test for Hirschprung’s disease but she did not do so.
Following his discharge, the child suffered from abdominal distension, failure to thrive, failure to stool and fever. Plaintiff’s mother then called the pediatrician about these symptoms four times over the next several days, but the doctor never recommended that the baby be returned to the hospital.
On Aug. 11, C.H. was brought back to the hospital. He was in shock, septic and lethargic and he became hypoxic, resulting in a loss of oxygen to the brain that left him developmentally disabled. The child remained hospitalized for the next six and one-half months and had bypass surgery to attach the working portion of his colon to his rectum.
Plaintiff’s says that the delay in treatment led to Hirschprung’s acquired enterocolitis, a more toxic and damaging condition.
The child, now 7, is mildly learning disabled and is now in first grade after being held back one year in kindergarten. Though he is not under ongoing treatment, he will have recurring bowel problems.
The infant’s parents sued in 1997 on their own and their son’s behalf.
Plaintiff’s attorney says Dr. Harland Winter, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, would have testified that the pediatrician deviated from accepted standards of care in discharging the child without testing for Hirschprung’s disease. A board-certified neurologist, John Greenberg, and a neuropsychologist, David Mahalick, would have testified that the child’s neurological disabilities will impair his cognitive, sensory, memory, visual and auditory functions. And a life-care-plan and vocational expert, Ed Provder, concluded that the boy will require care for the rest of his life and is unlikely to be able to support himself, though both parents are successful college grads.
The pediatrician was represented by E. Burke Giblin, a partner with Giblin & Combs in Morristown, who did not return a call requesting comment.
Morris County Superior Court Judge David Cramp approved the settlement, which will fund a special needs trust, on Aug. 2 following a friendly hearing.
Barry Eichen, partner at Eichen Cruchlow Zaslow, LLP, was co-counsel on the case.