Seven-figure recovery - A infant who was born several weeks prematurely died at home when his ventilator (breathing machine) became disconnected but the home health nurse who was watching him failed to discover this and reconnect the equipment. After being in the hospital for a matter of months after birth, the child was finally able to come home but had to be connected to a ventilator most of the day to support his breathing. The breathing tube ran from the machine through a tracheotomy (an opening in the infant's windpipe). On the evening in question, the child was sleeping but then suddenly the breathing tube became dislodged from the trachea. The home health nurse who was sitting with the child did not discover that the tube was dislodged and the child died.
Home health nurses are usually employed by agencies, and one of the big questions in those sorts of cases is whether the nurse has adequate training to take care of the type of patient to whom they are being assigned. There was some question in this case as to whether this nurse had adequate experience with the ventilator in order to appreciate the problem when it developed. For that reason, our claim was not only against the nurse but also the agency which employed her.
One of the challenges in this case was to overcome the argument that this was not a normal healthy child to begin with and not a child that had a long life expectancy because of several problems related to his prematurity. Premature children often have many medical problems after birth but as medical science improves, doctors have become more and more successful in nurturing "preemies" to a point that they can enjoy a more normal lifestyle. That was certainly the argument we made in this case.