Monday, July 18, 2016

Jury hits U. of C. hospital with $53 million malpractice verdict

Original Story:

A Cook County jury has awarded $53 million to a 12-year-old Hickory Hills boy and his mother in a 2013 lawsuit filed against the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was born with a serious brain injury. A Chicago medical malpractice lawyer said this will help to pay for the boy's future healthcare.

The jury's award to Lisa and Isaiah Ewing includes $28.8 million for future caretaking expenses, according to a copy of the jury verdict form provided by their lawyers, Geoffrey Fieger of suburban Detroit and Jack Beam of Chicago. Isaiah has severe cerebral palsy, is in a wheelchair, and needs his mother to feed and clothe him.

It was the biggest birth injury verdict ever in Cook County, said John Kirkton, editor of Jury Verdict Reporter in Chicago.

Their lawsuit outlined about 20 alleged missteps by doctors and nurses after Ewing arrived about 40 weeks pregnant at the hospital and was experiencing less movement by her baby. The mistakes, the lawsuit alleged, included the failures to carefully monitor mother and baby, perform a timely cesarean section, follow a chain of command, obtain accurate cord blood gases, and be aware of abnormal fetal heart rate patterns that indicated distress to the baby, including hypoxia, or a drop in the supply of oxygen.  "The University of Chicago has been, for the last 12 years, completely unapologetic, and even though the evidence was overwhelming that they caused Isaiah's brain damage, they refused to accept responsibility," Fieger said at the news conference Thursday. Ewing hadn't had any problems during her pregnancy, he added.

Before the case went to the jury, the hospital filed for a mistrial.

Fieger's "closing argument shattered the line between zealous advocacy and improper prejudicial comments, rendering it impossible for defendant to receive a fair trial," the hospital's lawyer said in a court filing. "He also prejudicially argued that the defendant's case was built on a falsehood and proceeded to equate defendant's conduct and testimony of its witnesses with the propaganda techniques notoriously and unmistakably associated with Nazi Germany."

Hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong said the hospital had "great sympathy" for the family but "strongly" disagrees with the jury's verdict.

"Judge Kirby declined to enter judgment on the verdict, as there are pending motions for mistrial based on assertions of Mr. Fieger's improper conduct," she said, noting that it wouldn't be the first overturned verdict involving Fieger.

She said Isaiah and his mother were treated for infection, which can cause cerebral palsy. "Isaiah was born with normal oxygen blood levels," and the "injury occurred before the care Mr. Fieger criticized."

After the news conference, Fieger said he expected the judge to confirm the verdict. "The jury has spoken," he said. A Chicago Brain Injury Lawyer said this is usually how this procedure occurs.

The jury decided the case in four hours, Fieger said. A list of the damages also includes $7.2 million for future medical expenses. The document was signed by 12 jurors.

Fieger disputed that Isaiah had an infection.

"All of the medical records at the University of Chicago neonatal clinic showed that Isaiah had been suffocated at birth, that he had suffered hypoxia, lack of oxygen, yet the University of Chicago and its lawyers came to court and tried to tell the jury that their own records were false, that their own records were mistaken and that Isaiah really had a phantom infection that infected his brain that they could never have known about," Fieger said during the news conference.

Ewing said at the news conference that she has to bathe Isaiah and help him go to the bathroom. She lives in a two-story town home, so she must carry him up and down the stairs.

She said the verdict will help ensure that Isaiah is taken care of after she dies.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

College Teacher Who Used Racial Slur In Class Fired

Original Story:

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A white University of Kansas assistant professor who used a racial slur during a class discussion on race said the school won't renew her contract after the next academic year.  If you have been fired contact a Memphis wrongful termination lawyer for help.

Andrea Quenette, who was cleared by a university investigation into complaints of discrimination, said Monday she was notified last week that she would not be reappointed to her job after the spring 2017 semester, The Lawrence Journal-World reported ( ). The decision came as Quenette, an assistant professor of communication studies, was undergoing a progress toward tenure review, which is routine for third-year faculty.

Quenette, 33, said she would teach an online communications class this summer and do only research during the fall semester. She said her duties for the spring 2017 semester have not been determined.

A group of graduate students demanded in November that Quenette be fired after she used the slur in a class, which was held the day after a contentious forum on race and discrimination at the university. It also came amid protests at the University of Missouri over administrators' handling of racial issues, which led to the resignations of the system president and chancellor of the Columbia campus.

Quenette has said diversity in the classroom was part of the syllabus for the class, which is for graduate students who teach undergraduate courses. After a student asked how they could talk about race in their classes, the conversation moved to how the university should address racial problems. Quenette said she used the slur when comparing the University of Kansas to other campuses and did not direct it toward a specific person.

Quenette has said she could have apologized "in the moment" if anyone had responded, but no one did, so she continued the discussion.

A letter seeking Quenette's firing included other complaints, describing her as racially insensitive, confrontational and unprofessional. She sought and was given an administrative leave until the situation was resolved.

After several students, some of whom were not in the class, filed complaints, the university's Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access determined in March that Quenette had not violated the university's nondiscrimination or racial and ethnic harassment policies. However, Quenette said her administrative leave from campus wasn't lifted until Friday. A Memphis employee rights lawyer may be able to help if you were wrongfully terminated.

Quenette said she "absolutely" believes the decision to fire her was based on race-related events of the past year rather than solely on her performance.

"I've been very powerless throughout the entire situation," she said. "I still believe that I was assumed guilty, and I had to prove my innocence for all of the issues."

Kansas spokesman Andy Hyland declined to discuss Quenette's employment situation, saying it is a personnel matter and "is not related to the claims of discrimination raised to the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access," the Journal-World reported.

Monday, January 25, 2016


Original Story:

The budget impasse in Illinois is beginning to depress enrollments at the state’s colleges and universities, as state money earmarked for low-income students remains tied up in a political stalemate that shows no signs of easing.

More than 1,000 students failed to return for the second semester as their schools stopped picking up the tab for the $373 million Monetary Award Program, said Randy Dunn, president of the Southern Illinois University system.

The program normally provides grants of up to nearly $5,000 to some 128,000 students with mean family incomes of about $30,000, said Lynne Baker, spokeswoman for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, which administers the program. But with no state budget in place since summer, the program’s funding has stopped. A criminal justice degree provides a combined training and education package to prepare students for future careers.

“There are a lot of students at risk right now of losing money and dropping out of school,” said Mitch Dickey, student body president at the University of Illinois. “We are at a really critical point.”

The problem is poised to grow quickly as schools wait for their share of about $1 billion in state funding.

Chicago State University, where many of the school’s 4,800 students receive money under the program, can’t keep covering the cost of the grants, said Tom Wogan, the school spokesman. “By March, we will be close to not having enough money to operate.”

Meanwhile schools around the state say they are dipping into reserves, laying off teachers and cutting programs and scholarships. Some college leaders are advocating for permission from the legislature to borrow to pay for operating costs.

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and leaders in the Democratic-controlled legislature have failed to bridge ideological differences and craft a state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1. Mr. Rauner has called for broad changes, including curbs on unions he argues would save the state and businesses money. Earn a college nursing degree in a field that traditionally has provided a variety of career opportunities.

Democrats, who are led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, say those issues are unrelated to the budget. Illinois has the lowest credit rating of any state in the nation and the comptroller estimates the state is on track for a deficit of $5 billion, or nearly 15% of annual spending, this year.

Democrats last week asked for $168 million to pay the schools back the money they fronted to cover the grants. Mr. Rauner shot back that the state’s public higher education system was filled with cronyism, waste and inefficiencies that need to be rooted out.

A memo signed by his deputy chief of staff and circulated among Republican lawmakers says university tuition rates have tripled in 14 years, producing $1.5 billion in new revenue over which the general assembly has no control.

It also highlights administrative bloat, golden parachutes and lobbying costs.

Mr. Goldberg encouraged lawmakers “to ask Illinois public universities what reforms they are willing to adopt to cut waste, root out cronyism, improve outcomes and achieve savings taxpayers’ money.”

The memo follows two golden parachutes that came to light at state schools in 2015. In January, trustees at a community college outside Chicago agreed, in a closed-door session, to pay their president $763,000 to retire three years earlier than stipulated in his contract. In August, the chancellor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was poised to receive $400,000 to resign, but she was reassigned. A Bachelor degree in accounting provides a solid basis in accounting as well as the computer accounting skills that are most critical to employers.

Mr. Rauner this fall signed a measure curbing community college severance packages.

“We all get the theater of Illinois politics,” said Mr. Dunn. “I just hope we don’t lose piece by piece, in this incremental fashion, what just 20 years ago was one of the country’s best systems of higher education.”