Kernicterus Case

​$46 Million Kernicterus Malpractice Verdict

On June 4, a healthy African American female was delivered via C-section at 38 weeks and 5 days weighing 8 pounds 14.8 ounces. The infant had multiple risk factors for hyperbilirubinemia (i.e. a sister with neonatal hyperbilirubinemia who required phototherapy treatment, being breastfed, and having maternal-infant ABO incompatibility). Bilirubin levels were drawn at 2 hours, the defendant physician did not plot the 5.5 bilirubin level on a nomogram or test for hyperbilirubinemia before the patient's discharge at less than 48 hours from birth. On June 6, the defendant physician provided a discharge plan which lacked guidance on neonatal jaundice and stated the need for an appointment ten days after discharge.  

On June 9, the father called the clinic where the physician was employed communicating that his daughter could not latch on well, had a shrill cry and was increasingly "yellow." The defendant clinic gave him an appointment for June 13.  

On or about June 10, the mother left a message with the clinic's answering machine stating that the infant was lethargic, arching her back and seemed to be in pain. That same evening one of the clinic's nurses returned the call and scheduled an appointment for the next day. Early the next morning the mother again called the clinic multiple times with growing concern and was given a morning appointment on June 12. During that visit it was noted that the infant was severely jaundiced. Shortly after noon, a bilirubin level of 33.4 was reported and the defendant physician advised the mother to take her daughter to a nearby medical center. The infant was placed under phototherapy lights and 2 hours later was transferred via ambulance to a Children's Hospital.

The infant suffered irreversible, severe and catastrophic brain injury—all of which could be considered preventable. 

The defendant physician, the medical center and the clinic were sued. The jury awarded $43 million in damages to the child and $3.5 million in damages to the parents. Eighty-five percent of the liability was place on the defendant physician and his employing clinic. Fifteen percent was placed on the medical center. the clinic which employed him.