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Health Law Keyed to Furrow
Arroyo v. U.S.
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- Topic: Identifies the topic of law and where this case fits within your course outline.
- Parties: Identifies the cast of characters involved in the case.
- Procedural Posture & History: Shares the case history with how lower courts have ruled on the matter.
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- The Case Brief is the complete case summarized and authored in the traditional Law School I.R.A.C. format. The Pro case brief includes:
- Brief Facts: A Synopsis of the Facts of the case.
- Rule of Law: Identifies the Legal Principle the Court used in deciding the case.
- Facts: What are the factual circumstances that gave rise to the civil or criminal case? What is the relationship of the Parties that are involved in the case. Review the Facts of this case here:
Maria Solorzano Arroyo (Plaintiff) and Carlos Arroyo (Plaintiff) conceived a child and received low-cost medical care at the Erie Family Health Center ("Erie Center" or "U.S.") (Defendant). The clinic received federal funds in order to treat low income, underinsured patients. While providing her prenatal care, the Erie Center's (Defendant) doctors did not find any problems with Plaintiff's pregnancy. Plaintiff went into labor more than one month early and their son Christian was then born premature at a local hospital. Plaintiff had not undergone the usual series of diagnostic tests that were usually performed in the month prior to delivery, including a test for certain bacteria that is commonly found. These are important diagnostic tests because they indicate whether or not an infant will be at risk of contracting any diseases from his or her mother's blood during birth so that doctors and nurses can prepare for this and reduce the risk of harm to the baby. Medical professionals use a two-pronged approach to protect infants when the mother has not had these diagnostic tests performed. First, at the delivery stage, doctors must observe whether four risk factors are present or absent. Second, once the baby is born, doctors must be vigilant in looking for signs that would indicate the presence or absence of neonatal sepsis (a bacterial infection in the baby's bloodstream). If any sign of infection is found, the doctor must immediately administer antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading. Certain bacteria are fairly benign in adults, therefore mothers can carry bacteria through pregnancy with no symptoms. Newborn infants can become infected with the disease during the delivery and, if not treated immediately, the infant can suffer severe and permanent brain injuries. Christian had symptoms shortly after birth that indicated he had been infected by exposure to his mother's blood. However, the obstetrician and pediatrician responsible for taking care of Plaintiff did not detect the infection or treat Christian with antibiotics. This failure caused Christian to suffer severe and permanent brain injuries. When Christian was discharged on July 11, 2003, doctors told Plaintiffs that Christian had suffered brain injuries that were caused by his exposure to his mother's blood during childbirth. The Plaintiffs were not informed that Christian's injuries could have been prevented if the bacterial infection had been treated earlier. Because of the injuries to his brain, Christian suffered from cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia, a seizure disorder, an inability to swallow, a communications deficit, incontinence, and permanent pain. When Mrs. Arroyo (Plaintiff) gave birth to her second son in July of 2004, she learned about neonatal antibiotics for the first time. The Plaintiffs saw a commercial in approximately October of 2004 that indicated Christian's doctors may have caused his injuries and they might have grounds for a lawsuit. The Plaintiffs contacted a law firm after they saw the commercial and began to investigate the cause of Christian's injuries. Since both of Christian's doctors were affiliated with the Erie Center (Defendant) and were part of the medical staff, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has deemed the Erie Center (Defendant) and its employees to be employees of the U.S. Public Health Service. Accordingly, the Erie Center (Defendant) and its employees, while performing within the scope of their duties, are shielded from liability by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), with the United States (U.S.) (Defendant) assuming liability for any negligent acts they commit. The Plaintiffs filed a state court lawsuit on December 30, 2005, claiming that both doctors failed to provide proper prenatal care to Christian at the Erie Center (Defendant) and during the time that surrounded his birth. In January 2010, at the end of the bench trial, the court found in favor of the Plaintiffs. The court then ordered the parties to file post-trial briefs addressing the issues of damages and the statute of limitations defense by the U.S. (Defendant). The court denied the defense and awarded the Plaintiffs over $29 million in damages for various past and future losses and expenses. The U.S. (Defendant) appealed.
- Issue(s): Lists the Questions of Law that are raised by the Facts of the case.
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