Jury finds Henry Ford Health 'unnecessarily delayed' C-section, awards $120M damages

A Michigan jury has found Detroit-based Henry Ford Health and some of its practitioners to be negligent in a case involving a delayed caesarean section and resulting severe disability.

Jurors handed down the verdict March 28 and awarded $120 million in damages to a mother, Kristen Drake, and her 13-year-old son, K’Jon Drake, according to court documents. The minor has severe disabilities, plaintiffs said, and jurors agreed, which are the result of a Henry Ford obstetrician and hospital nurses’ failure to perform a C-section procedure for more than two hours.

In a statement, the nonprofit health system told Fierce Healthcare it intends to appeal the decision.

The case was filed in Michigan’s Wayne County Circuit Court in 2020. Plaintiffs were joined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which sought to recover money paid to support K’Jon Drake’s medical care.

Kristen Drake had presented to Henry Ford Hospital in 2010, where fetal monitoring “began to show decelerations due to cord compression and decreased variability” after arrival, according to a court filing from the plaintiffs. The attending obstetrician called for a C-section that was “unnecessarily delayed” for two hours and 19 minutes, they wrote.

“Obviously time is of the essence in delivering a baby who is showing non reassuring fetal heart tones. There is simply nothing to be gained by waiting,” plaintiffs wrote in a filing. “On the other hand delay can result in a baby becoming progressively more hypoxic to the point where he develops metabolic acidosis and can suffer hypoxic ischemic brain damage and other sequelae of intrapartum asphyxia. Tragically … that is exactly what happened in this case.”

K’Jon Drake, who is now 13, lives with cerebral palsy, blindness and permanent brain damage due to that asphyxiation, plaintiffs said. He requires lifelong care, which until now was largely delivered by his mother and grandmother.

The four-week medical malpractice trial culminated in the jury awarding about $120 million in damages for the family, part of which will be paid to the state’s health department. It represents a combination of past and future economic damages for needed care, future loss of wage earning capacity, and past and future noneconomic damages broadly related to pain and suffering.

Henry Ford Health is an integrated care provider with more than 250 locations and five acute hospitals in Michigan. In an emailed statement, the nonprofit said it’s been “deeply saddened for the Drake family since the birth of their son more than a decade ago.

“At the same time, we do not believe the verdict is consistent with the facts of this case and plan to vigorously appeal the jury’s verdict. Given the ongoing nature of the case, we are not able to provide any additional comment at this time,” the system wrote.