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Judge says parents can seek punitive damages for wrongful death

Too many parents in Illinois will understand the pain an out-of-state couple felt when they lost their baby just 43 days after he was born. The couple filed a wrongful death suit against the medical center and their baby's doctor, alleging fraud, battery and gross negligence. Recently, the judge presiding over the case gave the parents permission to seek punitive damages from the medical center.

When their baby was born back in Spring 2012, he was premature. Therefore, he was hospitalized in the medical center's neonatal intensive care unit. His parents claim that, while in the NICU, he was exposed to a virulent bacteria -- Salmonella Newport, and the hospital attempted to keep that information from the parents.

The newborn contracted an illness called Necrotizing enterocolitis, which the parents claim is an illness linked to Salmonella. Doctors Medical Center, which is based in Modesto, California, denies the couple's allegations. In doing so, it points to a report done in 2012 by the California Department of Public Health, in which the NICU supposedly did not present any deficiencies. When that report was done was not reported.

Therefore, it is not known whether this information was reported before or after the birth and death of the couple's son. In addition, the couple's attorney claims to have had an email sent to a member of the medical center's infection control department, ordering that no investigation be conducted into the death. That email was supposedly sent in April 2012.

As diligent as a hospital might be to ensure that no infectious outbreaks occur, an outbreak can occur. The hospital is then responsible for remedying the situation and taking responsibility for the care of any patients who are affected. If an Illinois family loses a loved one to a bacterial or viral outbreak, a wrongful death claim may be appropriate. Any damages awarded will not bring back a family member, but they could give the family a sense of justice and help prevent another family from experiencing the same loss.

Source:, "Family files lawsuit after baby contracts salmonella, dies in hospital", July 29, 2015

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