Damage Award Affirmed in Brachial Plexus Injury Case

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a $8.3 million damage award in the brachial plexus injury case brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The damage award was broken down as follows:

  • $64,967.77 for past medical expenses
  • $80,000 for future medical expenses
  • $2,653,000 in lost earnings
  • $1,500,000 for the permanent disfigurement of his right arm
  • $2,000,000 for the deprivation of a normal life and
  • $2,000,000 for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

Multiple errors caused the the brachial plexus injury and the evidence supporting the errors was so strong that the federal government did not even attempt to appeal the trial judge’s finding that medical negligence caused the injury to the child.

Rather, the government said the damages to the child, five years old at the time of trial, were too high.

The Court of Appeals didn’t think much of the argument.  It said

The award here may have been toward the upper bounds of a reasonable award, but our job on appeal is not to decide the amount we would award if we had presided over the trial. The district court reached a reasonable decision given the unavoidable difficulty of deciding at one moment in time an amount to provide fair compensation over a life‐ time for a now‐five‐year‐old boy’s permanent and life‐altering birth injury. The government’s arguments that he should receive no compensation beyond medical expenses were dis‐ appointing and not persuasive.

Page 14-15 (emphasis added).

This case was decided under Illinois law.  If it had been decided under Tennessee law, the $5.5M in noneconomic damages awarded in the case would have been reduced to $750,000 because of the tort reform legislation enacted almost a decade ago.

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