Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Chops into Hospital Award; Panel Orders $40.5 Million Reduced in Boy's Death at Mayport Obstetrics Clinic

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Court Chops into Hospital Award; Panel Orders $40.5 Million Reduced in Boy's Death at Mayport Obstetrics Clinic

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL PINKHAM

A divided federal appeals court has ordered a judge to reduce a record award won by the parents of a boy born severely brain damaged at a Jacksonville Naval Hospital clinic.

A panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said the hospital and its staff clearly were negligent during the 2003 birth of Kevin Bravo Rodriguez at the Mayport Naval Station obstetrics clinic, part of the Jacksonville Naval Hospital system. But the judges found a $40.5 million award to the boy and his parents excessive.

Kevin died at age 3.

"This is a tragic case in which the negligence of those acting for the U.S. government destroyed the life of a little boy and did much damage to the lives of his mother and father," U.S. Circuit Judge Ed Carnes wrote for the 2-1 majority. "The case is here not because anyone questions whether the government should pay, but because there are good-faith disagreements about issues affecting how much it must pay."

The lawyer for Kevin's family in Miami said he will ask the full appeals court to rehear the case. If the decision stands, it will be retried just on the issue of damages, attorney Ervin Gonzalez said.

Initially, U.S. District Judge Jose Gonzalez of Miami awarded Kevin and his parents $60.5 million. He later reduced that to $40.5 million.

The judge found that obstetrician Kenneth Kushner waited too long to perform a Caesarean section, depriving Kevin of oxygen. Kevin's mother was in labor for 20 hours, and when Kevin finally was born, a cord was wrapped around his neck and he wasn't breathing.

Half the award was for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering or loss of Kevin's companionship, the largest such verdict ever against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

"We conclude that the record-setting award ... is so extravagant that it shocks the judicial conscience," the appeals judges found, while recognizing the parents' loss. …

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