$26 million verdict reached in child medical malpractice case
Jurors took just eight hours to award a Brooklyn couple $26 million — double what they had sought — after overwhelmed medical residents at Maimonides Medical Center allegedly botched the birth of their twins, leaving one dead and the other deaf and mute.
“It’s like a baby mill,” mom Danielle Madden Buck said of the Borough Park hospital, which had the busiest maternity ward in the state at the time, according to reports.
Buck’s nightmare began Feb. 9, 2010, when she was 20 weeks pregnant and went to the hospital in the morning with cramping and spotting, according to the lawsuit.
A doctor-in-training saw her and sent her back home to Mill Basin.
“They didn’t feel like anything was going on,” Buck, 39, told The Post.
By evening, her bleeding worsened, so she returned to Maimonides. Another fledgling doctor checked her out, but that person and the staff “felt there were no changes — they weren’t concerned,” Buck said.
But the mom was plenty worried. After in-vitro fertilization, she initially became pregnant with triplets, but the doctors said there was a much higher survival rate if she carried just two embryos to term.
She was sent back home again.
“I called the doctor and said I was still concerned because I still had spotting. She told me don’t worry about it,” said Buck, a former teacher who now runs the sports program for the Police Athletic League.
Buck did not go back to the hospital until Feb. 17, for a routine sonogram — but by then it was too late. One of the twins’ heads was crowning.
“They shouldn’t have sent her home” in the first place, Buck’s lawyer, James Wilkens, told The Post. “The reason they shouldn’t have is there are certain therapies that can help or inhibit the delay of labor.”
He added: “The resident who saw her at night [on Feb. 9] testified that the only reason he [instead of a senior physician] saw her is because they were so busy the residents had to help out.”
The doctors at Maimonides were able to delay Buck’s labor until Feb. 28 — but not before putting her through an excruciating game of musical beds, where she was transferred to the post-delivery floor after she had been told that her twins might not survive, she said.
“My bed was right in front of the nursery. The nurses kept saying, ‘Would you like us to bring your baby?’ and I said, ‘I didn’t have my baby, I don’t know if my children are going to make it,’ ” she said. When the girls — first Aleigha, then Madelyn — were born, they weighed around 1.5 pounds each.
A month later, Madelyn died from an infection. Buck had been able to hold her only once. Aleigha survived, but she is deaf, cannot speak, and suffers from kidney failure.
Buck and her husband, Andrew, sued the hospital for $13.5 million, claiming negligence.
After eight hours of deliberation last week, a jury of three men and three women awarded them $26.19 million.
The jury was unaware of a so-called “high-low’’ deal struck by the parents and hospital before the jury verdict.
Under the deal, the plaintiffs agreed to receive a “high’’ of $7.5 million if they won their suit and a “low’’ of $1.5 million if they lost. The agreement spared the couple from having to go through the trauma of an appeal if they lost, while still guaranteeing them some money for the care of Aleigha, their lawyer said. “
At the end of the day, I thought, if I file a lawsuit and there was negligence on their part, maybe they’ll think twice before they send another mother home,” explained Buck, who conceived naturally about a year after the twins’ birth and gave birth to a boy.
The hospital said in a statement, “We are disappointed by the verdict but understand how hard it is for jurors to send a family home without monetary compensation when children are involved.”
It added: “We believe excellent care was provided, and presented very credible evidence to support that point — credible enough that the family’s own attorneys chose to enter into a bracketed settlement before the jury returned its verdict.”