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$30 million verdict, a Cook County record verdict for a minor’s death

Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter 4/30/04  

Na’eem Shahid was born healthy on May 8, 1998.  Na-eem had a different blood type than his mother, so a sample of his blood was obtained at birth to tests whether this difference would cause his blood to break down.  However, the doctor who obtained the blood, Dr. Mark Zumhagen — an employee of deft Mayer Eisenstein M.D. S.C., did not have the blood sample tested until after Na-eem suffered brain damage on May 11, 1998.  In the meantime, defendant nursing agency Home Care had a nurse visit the newborn at his home on May 9 and May 10.  The nurse noticed evidence that the baby’s blood was breaking down because his skin was turning yellow (jaundice).  She called both Dr. Zumhagen and defendant Dr. Peter Rosi on May 9, but neither doctor (family practitioners) saw Na’eem or did anything to test his blood.  The nurse talked to Dr. Rosi again on May 10, and he suggested that a blood sample be obtained, but the nurse did not have the equipment nor the training to obtain the blood sample for testing.  The family tried to have a blood test done at an outpatient clinic, but the clinic was closed that Sunday.  The family brought Na-eem to the Home First Clinic the next day, May 11, but the infant had already sustained brain damage due to kernicterus by the time he arrived at the emergency room.  The kernicterus (a/k/a bilirubin encephalopathy), which is caused by excessive breakdown of blood, caused intense pain which prevented the child from being held or even touched by his parents because it only increases his pain, and also caused hearing loss, until he died from complications of kernicterus on May 24, 1998, at the age of 16 days.   Defense contended that defendants did not have to perform any test on the cord blood they obtained because there was no specific written standard that required such testing to be done, there was no reason to the cord blood test because the child appeared normal at birth, the nursing agency did not have to provide its nurses with the equipment to obtain a blood sample because the baby could go to a hospital or clinic to have blood drawn, and doctors did not violate the standard of care on Saturday May 9 because Dr. Rossi told the nurse that Na-eem needed to go to the emergency room, although this was denied by the nurse.  Defense further argued that  Na-eem did not die as a result of kernicterus and its complications but rather died of SIDS, based upon an autopsy report which attributed the death to SIDS.  Post trial motions are pending.  COMPARISON: Verdict is an Illinois record for wrongful death of a minor; prior high was $12,508,098 in 2000.