A federal appeals court has upheld a $29 million verdict for a family that filed a medical malpractice lawsuit over negligent treatment at a government-funded clinic that allegedly caused their son to develop cerebral palsy.
The cerebral palsy malpractice lawsuit was originally filed by the parents of Christian Arroyo, who was born in 2003 at the Erie Family Health Center. He is a spastic quadriplegic due to cerebral palsy, which his parents’ lawsuit alleges was caused by a brain infection that should have been detected and treated.
According to the complaint, after he was born, Arroyo suffered from an infection for 12 hours, which was not properly treated because the clinic staff failed to diagnose the problem. Although the boy allegedly showed every symptom of a brain infection, including an inability to see, the medical staff missed those signs and failed to treat Arroyo with antibiotics, which the family claimed may have prevented him from developing cerebral palsy.
At trial, the family won the cerebral palsy lawsuit against the clinic last year, receiving an award of $29.1 million. Because the clinic is funded by the federal government, the case was against the United States government, which attempted to get the verdict thrown out on appeal.
The U.S. government argued that Arroyo’s parents filed the case after the statute of limitations, based on when they reasonably should have known that their son’s brain damage was caused by a medical mistake. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected that argument last week, upholding the verdict.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by a brain injury that occurs before, during or shortly after birth. If the brain of a baby is deprived of oxygen, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities associated with cerebral palsy.
Although cerebral palsy can occur without a medical mistake, when the exercise of the proper standards of medical care could have prevented the child’s brain from being deprived of oxygen, medical malpractice lawsuits over cerebral palsy are often filed to obtain compensation for the child.
The fact that the defense attorneys tried to have this case thrown out on statute of limitations grounds suggests that the facts of the case did not favor them. The easiest way to deny justice to an injured party---argue that the case has no merit, or that the case should have been brought sooner.
Under AZ law, a person injured by the negligence of another, be it a car accident, medical malpractice, a dangerous product, etc…, generally has 2 years to resolve their claim or file a lawsuit to protect their right to maintain the claim. In most circumstances, the two-year period begins when the injured party knows or should know of the negligence, some damage and the identity of the party who caused the harm.
The rules are a bit different for minors (people under 18). Minors have 2 years to bring a claim beginning at their 18th birthday, so, up until age 20 (their 20th birthday). Whether federal laws differ from this is unknown, however, the courts in Arizona likewise would have rejected the statute of limitations defense in this case.
I cannot comment on the facts of this case. Regardless, the injuries to Christian Arroyo seem quite severe, and those who have children know well that they would gladly trade any amount of money for a healthy child. I am certain, by the amount of this verdict, that the Arroyo family presented a case projecting Christian’s future medical care to be in the millions of dollars. We wish him and his family the best.