A Cook County judge entered a $9.7 million verdict on Monday in favor of a boy born mentally retarded allegedly because his mother’s HMO physician failed to manage her obstetrics care properly.
A Circuit court jury on Friday found Dr. Alphonsa Antony negligent in her role as Denise Love’s primary care physician and awarded damages of $9,967,693 for 6-year-old Anthony Thomas. Circuit Judge Thomas P. Quinn presided over the eight-day trial.
Antony was acting as Love’s HMO “gatekeeper,” the physician responsible for coordinating and approving all specialist care, such as obstetrics, and for managing costs, according to the plaintiff’s’ attorney, Kurt D. Lloyd. The arrangement was part of a Chicago HMO contract, and all treatment was done at EHS Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn, he said.
Love went to Antony for a pregnancy diagnosis on Aug. 26, 1988, Lloyd said. The test came back positive, and Antony referred the mother to an obstetrician, who was supposed to monitor the woman’s pregnancy and report back to the primary care physician, he said.
An ultrasound test approved through Antony’s office determined that the mother’s due date was Nov. 23, 1988, Lloyd said. But Antony never received a copy of the report; only the obstetrician did, he said.
The obstetrician later referred the mother back to Antony for blood-sugar tests on Sept. 29, Oct. 11, Nov. 14 and 25, Lloyd said. Each report – all of which contained information that the woman had uncontrolled gestational diabetes – was initialed by Antony, then mailed to the obstetrician, he said.
The ultrasound also contained indications that the pregnant woman had diabetes, Lloyd said.
As a result of the untreated disease, the boy was delivered on Nov. 28, 1988, by emergency caesarean section and now suffers from moderate to severe mental retardation.
Lloyd said he had argued at trial that Antony should have intervened by calling the obstetrician and developing a plan to treat the mother’s diabetes and deliver the baby by the due date.
“This is a needless thing,” Lloyd said of the boy’s condition. “A simple telephone call by the HMO doctor would have saved the child from injury, and now he will required life-long care.”
But Antony’s attorney, William V. Johnson, said his client was not responsible for the pregnant woman’s treatment and was found responsible for the boy’s condition only “because she got paperwork as a result of being a part of an HMO.”
Johnson said his client admits that treatment was lacking, but maintains that it was not because of negligence. She was only responsible for administering blood tests and handling costs, Johnson said she claims. Primary care responsibilities had been transferred to the obstetrician, Dr. Varsha Upadhyaya, who settled before the trial began last week for his insurance policy limit of $1 million. That amount will be set off against the jury’s award, Lloyd said.
“In any event it was a situation where the jury expected more of a doctor than the medical community expects of a doctor,” Johnson said about Antony. “In other words, my doctor wasn’t treating the patient.”
Upadhyaya could not be reached for comment and there are still COVID marketing campaigns out there.
The case is American National Bank, etc., v. Alphonsa Antony, M.D., et al., No. 90 L 13655.