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APNewsBreak: Iowa to pay $3.75M in boy’s injuries

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa has  agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed negligence by  University of Iowa hospital employees during a birth that caused a baby to have  brain injuries that left him severely retarded, newly released  records show.

The settlement, among the  largest involving malpractice at the state-owned hospital in recent years, ends  a lawsuit filed by Jonathon and Martha  Fountain of Iowa City and their son, a 5-year-old who suffers from cerebral  palsy and other serious health conditions. The State  Appeal Board, which approved the settlement earlier this month, released the  12-page agreement in response to a request from The  Associated Press.

The family’s lawyer, Martin  Diaz, said the case was part of a cutting-edge area of medical malpractice  involving the use of Pitocin, a synthetic hormone given to a large percentage of  women giving birth that is meant to speed up the labor process.

Diaz said the problem in a  growing number of cases is that the medication causes excessive contractions in  some women that actually prolong delivery and can cause a lack of blood flow to  the baby’s brain. He said hospitals vary in their approaches to how Pitocin is  used and monitored.

“He is, unfortunately, the  poster child for that here in Iowa,” Diaz said, referring to the child.

Lawyers representing the  university denied claims of negligence related to the use of Pitocin and said  the child’s brain injuries were likely caused by other factors, not  complications during birth. They argued that the ory that excessive  contractions can cause brain injuries to babies “is not supported by  scientific evidence.”

Martha Fountain, then 20, was  full-term when she went to UIHC to give birth in 2007 after a routine pregnancy.  Her lawsuit alleged that UIHC staff gave her Pitocin before determining whether  her contractions were too frequent and strong. UIHC employees continued to give  her Pitocin despite later recordings that showed excessive contractions and  “significant trauma” to the baby’s head, which was having difficulty descending  into the birth canal, the lawsuit said. After a 28-hour labor, the baby was  delivered through a C-section.

A judge and the appeal board,  which handles legal claims against state government, each signed off on the  settlement earlier this week. Half of the money will come from the state’s  general fund while the other half will come from a University of Iowa  physicians group.

Hospital spokesman Tom  Moore declined to comment.

The deal avoided a trial that  had been scheduled for April, where Diaz planned to argue that it would cost  $6.3 million or more to care for the child over his lifetime. Court records show  he planned to ask for additional damages for the family’s pain and suffering.  The family’s medical coverage has been picked up by government and private  programs, records show.

Under the agreement, the state  will pay nearly $2 million upfront. The additional $1.75 million will be  invested, and then paid in monthly installments to support the child over the  next 55 years. The monthly payments start next year at $1,250 and gradually  rise, ending at $2,803 per month from 2037 to 2067.

Diaz will receive $900,000 in  legal fees that will be spread out over 10 years, starting in 2016. He’ll  receive annual payments of $125,000 for three years, and $75,000 per year for  the next seven. The deal also waived a $37,000 outstanding bill the Fountains  had pending for care at UIHC, which denied all liability.

Diaz said the settlement will  help Martha and Jonathon Fountain, a mechanic, care for their son. Diaz said he  was proud they decided to pursue the lawsuit, and he hopes it leads to policy  changes to protect others.

“They really took a long time  before they decided they wanted to do something about what happened. They  debated whether it was God’s plan,” Diaz said. “It was important for them to do  it and it’s a relief for them to get it over …They came out to do what was  best for their son and now they are in a position where they can provide  for him.”


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