When two different hospitals receive an infant who was the victim of child abuse, would you imagine that infant being returned to the hands of the abuser? In a lawsuit handled by top New Jersey medical malpractice trial lawyer, David Mazie, on May 29, 2013, an Essex County judge approved the $7.5 million settlement with two hospitals and their staff members for the hospitals’ negligent treatment of an infant who was the victim of child abuse. The name of the case was Escobar v. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No.: ESX-L. The case was brought on behalf of J.V., the four-year-old child plaintiff who sustained brain damage resulting from severe beating by his father when he was four months old. The baby has a G-tube inserted into his stomach and is blind. The New Jersey Law Journal reported that “when [the baby]was four months old, [he] endured a severe beating by his father that left him with brain damage. The suit claimed the beating was the result of negligence by the defendant hospitals, which had treated the child on two prior occasions of suspected abuse.”
When a DYFS employee brought the infant plaintiff to the first hospital for an evaluation of child abuse that was reported by his maternal grandmother, the treating doctor observed that J.V. had hemorrhages in both eyes and had bruises on both sides of his face. Instead of admitting J.V. under a three-day hospital hold to fully evaluate his injuries and ensure his safety, the doctor discharged him that evening, even after he diagnosed the infant plaintiff of “suspected child abuse.”
In addition, a radiologist who reviewed the results found that there was bifrontal and bitemporal subdual hygromas (fluid on the brain). This could well indicate head trauma and signs of abuse are clearer and convincing when combined with the fact that the infant plaintiff showed facial bruising and blood in his eyes. No MRI was recommended. This would show whether or not there was any prior head trauma. The radiologist did not contact the treating doctor either. Both the radiologist and his employer settled.
Just three weeks later, J.V. was taken to the second hospital because he was bleeding from his mouth. He was seen by two nurses as well as one attending emergency room physician. The physician diagnosed J.V. of having a lacerated frenum (a disconnect of the tissue designed to connect the tongue to the floor of the mouth), which is a classic marker of child abuse. Instead of reporting the abuse to DYFS, The hospital discharged the infant back to his abuser. The nurses committed medical malpractice for the same reason – they should have conducted a nursing assessment for child abuse.
Because of the negligence of the medical malpractice defendants – and DYFS – J.V. was left alone with his father who severely beat the four month old until he became severely brain damaged. After the beating, J.V was taken from his parents and placed with his grandmother. The father was arrested and convicted of aggravated assault and child cruelty.
The case settled after mediation with former Judge Eugene Codey. Additional claims against DYFS for its negligence in allowing J.V. to remain with his abuser are still pending with the court.