The parents of an 8-day-old boy who died of massive bleeding four years ago after an incubator at the Washington Hospital Center overheated and caused the baby's temperature to rise, were awarded $500,000 yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court jury.
Tama Reasonover Jackson and James Jackson, parents of the child, were awarded $1 million in damages in the first trial of the case last year, but the judge said the award was too high and ordered a new trial. Jack Olender, attorney for the Takoma Park couple, said that his clients may ask that the original $1 million verdict be reinstated.
"Even though the jury did not give what we felt they should," said Olender, "the only good thing that will come out of this case is that this incredibly stupid negligent thing will never happen again."
"It has been very hard to live with the aspects of [Taman's] death over the past four years," said 27-year-old Tama Reasonover Jackson, the child's mother. "You're talking about a horror story," said James Jackson, 29, the boy's father. The couple has one other child, a 3-year-old son.
The hospital's lawyer, Joseph Barse, declined to comment.
Washington Hospital Center previously had acknowledged negligence in its care of the infant. After the incident, some nurses at the hospital were disciplined and the Food and Drug Administration found that a safety control designed to shut off the incubator and sound an alarm had been broken.
The incubator's manufacturer previously had agreed to pay the Jacksons $700,000.
At issue was the amount Jackson's parents should be awarded based on the child's pain and suffering and on the amount of money he would have accumulated, or saved, at the end of an average life span.
Olender argued that Taman Jackson experienced more than 10 hours of "silent pain" prior to his death and that he would have left an estate of more than $400,000 had he lived a normal life.
Barse, saying that the hospital was "sorry," disputed that figure, arguing that statistical averages showed that a child like Jackson would have accumulated less than $20,000.
Taman Jackson was born at home. He entered Washington Hospital Center when he was 6-days-old for treatment of jaundice, a liver ailment common to newborns. He was placed in an incubator. Early the next morning, according to court testimony, a nurse discovered the temperature inside the incubator had risen to 105 degrees and the baby's temperature was 102 degrees.
The nurse removed the baby from the incubator, turned the machine off for a while, cooled the baby and then put him back in the incubator, according to testimony. More than four hours later, the baby was removed from the incubator after frothy blood was noticed on his pillow. His temperature had risen to 105 or 106 degrees, according to testimony.
The child was placed in the intensive care unit where he died the next day.