Justice was finally served last week for a West Virginia child who reportedly sustained devastating brain damage during birth. According to the district court complaint filed by her parents on her behalf, Aubrie Hysell did not receive adequate oxygen during the labor and delivery process at Raleigh General Hospital in 2010. She was later diagnosed with a permanent neuromuscular disorder called cerebral palsy. Her parents alleged that medical negligence on the part of hospital staff caused Aubrie’s condition. On June 3rd, a jury agreed and awarded a $10.8 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs.
Aubrie and her parents Crystal and Ryan Hysell were represented by Barry J. Nace and Christopher T. Nace of Paulson & Nace PLLC. After the Hysell’s legal team argued their case at trial, the jury determined that Raleigh General Hospital was responsible for 70% of Aubrie’s injuries while the U.S. government was 30% responsible. The federal government was deemed partially liable because it funds Access Health, a medical network that provided care to Aubrie after she was born.
A key issue of the case was whether the medical team that managed Aubrie’s birth directly contributed to her oxygen deprivation, known as hypoxia, and her subsequent development of cerebral palsy. Per the filed complaint, Aubrie required resuscitation efforts shortly after birth; however, Raleigh General was unable to provide records of what transpired during the first few minutes of her life. This documentation gap is significant, as up to 15% of U.S. cerebral palsy cases are attributed to insufficient oxygen around the moment of birth.
According to the complaint, the Hysell’s struggled to find a cause for the developmental delays exhibited by Aubrie as she grew older. It was not until a 2016 MRI showed brain damage consistent with hypoxia at birth that they began to suspect medical negligence. The Hysell’s further claimed that an earlier MRI of Aubrie was reported to them as normal, and that this error delayed her cerebral palsy diagnosis and treatment. Clearly, the jury concurred that Aubrie’s doctors committed a dereliction of duty.
Included in the award is $9 million for future medical expenses, $837,527 for loss of future earnings, and $1 million in non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are designed to address the subjective losses resulting from an injury – the pain, suffering, and physical and emotional trauma that are not easily quantifiable. In the Hysell’s case, the fact that Aubrie was injured as a newborn and will require lifelong medical care likely contributed to the jury’s high dollar verdict in their favor.