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Brown v. Community Hospital of San Bernardino

Dr. Fagel achieved a verdict of $43,500,000 on behalf of an 18-month-old child who received severe brain damage after monitoring devices in his crib were disconnected. The plaintiff, then aged 4 months, was admitted to San Bernardino Community Hospital’s regular pediatric floor for a respiratory infection. Three days later, after his condition had improved, the pediatrician told the plaintiff’s parents that he would be discharged the next day. The parents then went home to take care of their other four children. While the parents were gone, a nurse found the plaintiff lying face down in his crib and not breathing. According to the parents, the monitors that would have sounded an alarm if the infant’s breathing or heartbeat failed were not attached and the infant had stopped breathing for up to 40 minutes. By the time nurses found the plaintiff he had turned blue. He was resuscitated but soon developed seizures and was diagnosed with severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. As a result, the plaintiff has severe brain damage and is in a persistent vegetative state. It is believed that he will never walk or talk, and he must be fed through a tube because he is unable to swallow.

The defendant hospital admitted liability, but claimed that the plaintiff does not need licensed medical care at home and only has an 8-10 year life expectancy. However, Dr. Fagel contended that the plaintiff does require 24-hour Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN) care at home, due to his vegetative state, and has a 30-year life expectancy with proper care. The jury awarded $43.5 million ($15.8 million in present cash value) to cover past medical costs and assure that the plaintiff’s continual medical needs will be covered throughout his life.