In 2008, when Kiera Campbell was four years old, her parents, Todd and Jaime Campbell, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit on her behalf stemming from injuries suffered during Kiera’s birth at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Illinois.
After a prolonged pre-trial period that lasted 15 years, the case finally went to trial this past March in Coles County. The jury found in favor of the Campbells, awarding 19-year-old Kiera $40 million in damages. The award, which was the highest ever in the county’s history, as well as the highest medical malpractice verdict ever awarded in Illinois outside of Cook County, marks the end of a long-fought battle on both sides.
On May 20, 2003, when Jaime Campbell was 40 weeks pregnant with Kiera, she began bleeding and experiencing abdominal pain and cramping. When she arrived at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, it was apparent that she was suffering from a placental abruption, a condition where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus, which decreases or block’s the baby’s oxygen and nutrient supply. However, her doctor was not called to the hospital until the situation became dire.
Kiera’s emergency C-section delivery was delayed, which resulted in a seizure disorder, mild cerebral palsy, and speech and developmental delays. Kiera has undergone intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy but still experiences memory deficits and significant executive function disorder.
The Campbells’ legal counsel, Levin & Perconti and Spiros Law, P.C., filed a lawsuit against Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center as well as the treating physicians and registered nurse, alleging that the defendants failed to accurately assess and communicate with physicians regarding Jaime’s condition upon admission, failed to record appropriate fetal monitoring, failed to accurately communicate ongoing fetal distress, failed to request a physician and assemble the appropriate medical personnel for delivery, and failed to perform an emergency cesarean section when its urgency was known, among other allegations.
Prior to the start of the trial, the defense had offered $3 million to settle, which was declined.
After a three-week trial, the jury found the hospital and registered nurse (but not the physician) liable for Kiera’s injuries and awarded the plaintiffs $40 million in damages, which was more than the $35 to $37 million that plaintiffs’ counsel requested. The verdict included $20 million for future disability, $5 million for past disability, $4,750,000 for future emotional distress, $750,000 for past emotional distress, $500,000 for past pain and suffering, $5,000,000 for future caretaking expenses, and $4,000,000 for future lost earnings.
Plaintiffs’ counsel expressed satisfaction with the jury verdict. “Thanks to the tireless work of Kiera’s parents and her own hard work and perseverance, she has accomplished so much more than was expected. She graduated from high school and has a part-time job. The jurors could only imagine the life Kiera could have had without these severe disabilities given her work ethic and supportive family,” Miranda L. Soucie, partner at Spiros Law, P.C., explained. “In addition to damages, this jury also understood the great emotional distress Kiera and her family have suffered and will continue to suffer due to her birth injuries, which were preventable. The jury ruled accordingly.”
Despite Kiera making great strides and advances throughout her life, including graduating from high school and maintaining a part-time job, the jury recognized the permanent and long-term extent of her injuries.
As Mike Bonamarte, a managing partner at Levin & Perconti, stated, “We prosecuted this case for 15 years and persisted in rejecting the defense argument that Kiera wasn’t injured to the extent we said…On the outside, Kiera looks like a normal 19- year-old but the damage to her brain has limited her potential. Physically, Kiera is high functioning. Cognitively, her executive functioning is significantly impaired. The verdict is just and reflective of the complete compensation that Kiera deserves for the harm that was done to her by the conduct of the defendants.”
Kim Uphoff, the President and CEO of the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center, released a statement after the verdict, stating, “The verdict does not reflect the facts of this case.” Uphoff further noted their disappointment with what was described as an “egregious” award. “Awards of this massive size are devastating to this region. Nuclear verdicts are on the rise and they have devastating impacts on businesses, entire industries, and the community at large.”
On the plaintiffs’ side, the Campbell verdict is a perfect example of how a medical malpractice lawsuit may yield extremely favorable results, even after decades have passed since the injury. It also highlights a jury’s willingness to recognize the long-term effects and costs associated with life-long permanent injuries.