By Associated Press - Saturday, August 8, 2015

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - In a case that could test Nebraska’s strict cap on medical malpractice awards, a federal jury has awarded the family of a 2-year-old girl a whopping $17 million, finding that subpar care at Bellevue Medical Center caused her severe disability.

Nebraska tort laws cap medical malpractice awards at $2.25 million. The cap at the time of the girl’s birth was $1.75 million.

A Bellevue Medical Center administrator told The Omaha World-Herald ( ) that the hospital was not at fault.

“We strongly maintain that the objective medical evidence demonstrates that there was no wrongdoing or deviation from the standard of care on the part of our staff that led to this tragic outcome,” said Deb Istas, chief operating officer of the hospital.

A spokesman for Nebraska Medicine, of which the hospital is a part, says no decision has been made on whether to appeal the verdict.

The girl’s mother, Doran Schmidt, alleged hospital workers were negligent in the hours leading to the girl’s complicated birth on Nov. 2, 2012.

Schmidt’s complaint said she began having contractions two days earlier. When she went to her midwife the next day, she spent hours having contractions before she was taken to Bellevue Medical Center, her attorney, Pat Cullan, said.

At the hospital, nobody determined the position of the fetus or measured the strength of the contractions, Cullan said.

“They never had a physician assess her,” he said.

Cullan said the result was that the baby suffered oxygen deprivation, brain compression and brain damage.

Schmidt said her child cannot walk or talk and has limited vision as a result. Schmidt said she would use the money for physical therapy, occupational therapy, medical care, equipment and other services the girl will need throughout her life.

A separate, confidential settlement was reached with the midwife, Cullan said.

Cullan dismissed suggestions that the jury’s award will be cut to state’s cap. His clients won’t be limited to the cap, he said, because the hospital failed to meet certain obligations to qualify for it. Cullan declined to discuss those obligations.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,

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