Kane County hospital reaches $19 million settlement in medical malpractice suit surrounding McHenry County boy’s birth

Advocate Sherman Hospital named defendant in case involving high-risk pregnancy

A McHenry County boy was awarded $19 million earlier this year in a settlement of a lawsuit stemming from a 2013 birth court documents claim was mishandled by an Elgin hospital that is part of the state’s largest health care system and Cook County medical professionals.

The complaint was filed in Cook County court in 2016 on behalf of now a 7-year-old Crystal Lake boy who was born with a serious brain injury at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, a facility under the umbrella of Advocate Aurora Health, which runs hospitals throughout Illinois, according to the lawsuit.

The boy now lives with spastic cerebral palsy, which causes muscles to feel stiff and movements to look rigid or jerky, as well as a major seizure disorder, lawyers for the family said in summaries of the case on their websites.

The attorneys did not identify the family on their websites, and while court records name the family, Shaw Media has chosen not to name them as they have not chosen to speak publicly about the case.

Attorney David McArdle of the Crystal Lake law firm Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle served as counsel on the case, representing the family at the start of the years-long legal battle, and later partnered with Chicago-based firm Power Rogers.

McArdle’s firm said it thinks the multimillion-dollar agreement reached in February is the largest legal settlement or verdict secured by a McHenry County-based law firm. Shaw Media has not been able to verify that claim.

The family will receive more than $12 million while its lawyers will take just more than $6.3 million as part of the settlement.

According to the complaint, the boy’s mother had gestational diabetes, which can occur during pregnancy and cause high blood sugar potentially affecting a pregnancy and the baby’s health. The diagnosis made her pregnancy a high-risk one, according to the complaint.

The woman was advised to go through an induction of labor in the 39th week of her pregnancy, and did so, court records show.

But once the induction started, medical professionals determined the woman’s cervix was not changing, and she was advised to go home and return in a few days for another induction, if she did not go into labor in the meantime, according to court records.

Experts used in the case by the plaintiffs thought it was unsafe for the woman to go home for several reasons, according to McArdle’s firm. Those included abnormalities on fetal heart readings that appeared during the first attempted induction and the fact the fetus was large for its gestational age at 8 pounds and 13 ounces, shown by an ultrasound gauge, according to court documents.

When the woman returned to the hospital, she was allowed to labor for hours before birth while more abnormalities were found on fetal heart measurements, McArdle’s firm said on its website.

When the boy was born, medical imaging suggested he had an older brain injury and an acute brain injury, and the defendants in the case argued the injury to the fetal brain occurred in the first trimester of pregnancy and thereafter, according to lawyers for the family.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the family. The safety and well-being of our patients is always our top priority,” Advocate Aurora Health said in a statement to Shaw Media. “Out of respect for privacy, we are unable to comment further.”

The complaint alleged medical professionals were wrong to delay going into a caesarian section delivery during the birth and that they failed to communicate effectively with each other, as well as the mother about the risks of the pregnancy, and also claimed other missteps were made by health care workers during the pregnancy.

The settlement shows Advocate Sherman Hospital and Advocate Health and Hospitals Corporation agreed to pay $18 million to the boy’s estate, while Dr. Michael J. Riermaier and his obstetrics, gynecology and midwifery practice Associates for Women’s Health, which worked with the hospital and were involved in the birth, agreed to pay $1 million.

Reached by phone, Riermaier said he was unfamiliar with the case or settlement.

“I have no knowledge of this,” he said before hanging up.

McArdle declined to be interviewed about the case, and Joseph W. Balesteri, who worked on the case for the Power Rogers firm, said he had no comment.

The boy’s father declined to comment for this story.

“I am very proud of the relationship we established with our Chicago partners and feel this outcome will stand for a very long time as a successful result for a Crystal Lake law firm,” McArdle said in a statement through his firm’s website.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.