Jury Awards $55.5 Million to Man Who Suffered Brain Damage During Birth at UIC Hospital
CHICAGO – Twenty years after suffering severe brain damage during birth at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, a Chicago man was awarded $55.5 million by a Cook County jury this week.
At 20 years old, Shamond Butler can’t speak, read or understand rules and safety. He has the cognitive ability of a 2-year-old and needs round-the-clock care, the result of negligent actions by doctors at UIC and the hospital itself, according to his lawyer Matthew Patterson.
Physicians Monique Schoenhage, then Monique Brown, and Michelle Kominiarek are named as defendants in the lawsuit, and the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System is named as a respondent in the case. After a three-week trial, the jury delivered its verdict Wednesday before Judge Janet Brosnahan in a Daley Center courtroom.
On April 12, 2003, Butler’s mother, Shannette Slater, was admitted to UIC Hospital, and the attending physician didn’t see her until six to seven hours after she was admitted, Patterson said at a news conference Thursday.
Schoenhage, a fellow-in-training and Kominiarek, a resident-in-training, were assigned to treat Slater, according to the complaint, meaning neither was board-certified.
“When people go to hospitals, they expect board-certified doctors,” Patterson said.
Slater was given Pitocin, a drug that causes contractions, but it cut off the oxygen supply to her baby before birth, according to the complaint, filed in 2017. Butler suffered fetal tachycardia, meaning his heart rate was elevated in utero.
Early the next morning, Butler was delivered via emergency C-section and taken to the newborn intensive care unit, where he was intubated five hours after his birth and spent eight days on life support. Slater had gestational diabetes and asthma, and she was considered a high-risk patient during pregnancy, Patterson said.
The doctors should have stopped the Pitocin immediately and treated Slater with antibiotics, Patterson said, but the hospital was also negligent in denying Schoenhage and Kominiarek the resources they needed to treat Slater and Butler.
“The hospital didn’t provide them with the resources, the training, the staff to protect this young man, and disaster resulted,” Patterson said.
The hospital didn’t offer “a single penny” when lawyers tried to work out a settlement over the years, according to Patterson, who added it also “refused to take responsibility for what they’ve done.
The $55.5 million, which will go toward Butler’s medical expenses and general well-being, was paid to Butler for loss of a normal life experience, disfigurement resulting from the injury, emotional distress, loss of earning and more, according to the verdict.
“It’s an opportunity, it’s funds for his care in the future,” Patterson said. His family is “just relieved, if something happens, Shamond will be taken care of.”
Butler’s parents declined to speak to reporters during a news conference, and Schoenhage and Kominiarek didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson for University of Illinois Chicago said, “While we empathize with the family and respect the legal process, we have full confidence in the care provided at our hospital and clinics. Delivering high quality, compassionate care to our patients and families continues to be our primary focus.”