$8.5 Million Awarded in Cerebral Palsy Case

In a May 2002 lawsuit verdict, a Rochester, New York, jury awarded a $8.5 million to a woman who claimed Rochester General Hospital caused irreparable damage to her baby by botching the delivery, according to a report by “Rochester Democrat and Chronicle” reporter Matt Leingang.

Rochester resident Angela Asproules, 22, sued the hospital in state Supreme Court, alleging that doctors and midwives underestimated the size of her baby when they allowed her pregnancy to go beyond the 42-week gestation period.

When the baby boy was born Oct, 1, 1997, the hospital should have known that he was too big to fit through the birth canal, but he was delivered that way anyway, the lawsuit claimed.

He got stuck in the birth canal for three minutes and was deprived of oxygen.

As a result, the baby, Yakeim Donald, was born with severe brain damage. Now 4, he has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He cannot speak or walk.

“All the warning signs were there that this wasn’t going to be a healthy delivery through the vagina,” said the plaintiff’s attorney, Allan Zelikovic, with the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg in New York City.

Janine DeCook, a spokeswoman for Rochester General, said the hospital was disappointed with the jury”s decision but declined further comment. The hospital is considering an appeal.

The jury — five women and one man — reached its verdict Tuesday, awarding much more than the $6.2 million requested by the plaintiff.

Asproules was 16 and not married when she became pregnant, Zelikovic said. She received prenatal care at a medical clinic operated by the hospital, and her pregnancy proceeded smoothly up until her due date of Sept. 14, 1997, he said,

Her pregnancy was allowed continue beyond 42 weeks — which is acceptable as long as the placenta continues to function properly — but when Asproules finally went into labor, it progressed slowly, Zelikovic said.

Evaluations conducted by Dr. Reinaldo Sanchez and midwife Lowry Simpson — who were working Oct. 1 — should have indicated that the fetus was too big to move through birth canal, Zelikovic said.

Asproules weighed just 100 pounds before her pregnancy. When her baby was born, he weighed 9 pounds, 6 ounces. Asproules ended up dropping out of high school and currently lives with her mother. The child’s father no longer lives with the family but remains in contact with his son, Zelikovic said. “The child will probably have a normal life expectancy, but he’ll never be independent,” Zelikovic said.

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