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Should $1M be New Standard for Stillbirth in NY?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 25, 2011 6:43 AM

Is $1 million in damages the new "standard" for stillbirths in New York? How does one even manage to quantify monetary damages for stillborn babies after medical malpractice?

In 2004, New York changed its law to allow mothers to sue for emotional damages resulting from medical malpractice-caused stillbirths.

Brooklyn mother Lucy Ferreira's case was one the first to make it to a trial. She was originally awarded $1 million in damages against the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in 2005, reports The New York Times.

An appeals court determined that the $1 million award was "reasonable compensation" for her mental anguish and suffering by a New York appeals court, The New York Times reports.

Ferreira had visited the Medical Center three times prior to giving birth. She had come to the hospital with abdominal pains, but was sent home with a prescription for painkillers, according to The New York Times. Her baby was stillborn.

Does Ferreira's case create a "standard" for damages awards in stillbirth cases in New York?

It can certainly lend credibility for damages awards that are equally as high. However, each medical malpractice case is accompanied with its own set of facts.

Different set of facts might mean a different amount of pain and suffering.

Jury awards for emotional damages like pain and suffering are difficult to quantify. For example, a court awarded $1 million in damages for a passenger's nine minutes of terror spent on a plane before it ultimately crashed and killed her, according to The New York Times. Ferreira's appeals lawyer argued that this terror was similar to the bereaved mother's mental anguish.

As perverse as comparing pain with pain may seem, it is one of the few ways to try to calculate damages for stillborn malpractice cases and other cases that involve emotional damages. Is $1 million the standard for stillbirths in New York? Maybe it isn't for all cases. But, at least, it's the amount that Ferreira will get for the loss of her child.

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