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Jury Awards $9 Million Verdict

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CHICAGO DAILY LAW BULLETIN

In Circuit Court

A Cook County jury has returned a $9 million verdict in favor of a disabled 20-year-old man whose mother claimed her son sustained severe brain damage and spastic quadriplegia as the result of an injury during his birth at Cook County Hospital.

On Jan. 21, 1990, a pregnant Amelia Saragosa arrived in the hospital's emergency department with labor pains, according to her attorney, Christopher T. Hurley of Hurley, McKenna & Mertz P.C. who, along with Mark R. McKenna, tried the case on behalf of the plaintiff.

The plaintiffs attorneys alleged that a junior resident physician in the hospital's labor and delivery unit subsequently performed an amniotomy, or intentional rupture of the fetal membranes, which caused the umbilical cord to become trapped between the child's head and his mother's birth canal. As a result, Hurley said, the child was deprived of oxygen and blood flow, leading to the need for an emergency Caesarean section.

The lawsuit further alleged that hospital staff failed to deliver the child until 41 minutes after the need for an emergency C-section became evident.

The hospital was represented by assistant Cook County state's attorneys Joyce E. Schoonover and MaryJo K. Smerz. They could not be reached for comment.

Hurley said that at trial he argued the hospital created the emergency by performing an unnecessary amniotomy and then failed to address the problem in a timely fashion. According to Huriey, the defense argued that the amniotomy was warranted and appropriately done, and that the child's injury was not related to oxygen deprivation since the C-section delivery was performed far sooner than the plaintiff had alleged.

The verdict was returned on Jan. 28 after a trial that lasted nearly three weeks with Circuit Judge Clare Elizabeth McWilliams presiding.

The case is Gabriel Saragosa, disabled v. County of Cook, No. 05 L 005814.

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