Sue for Emotional Distress: Price of a Stillbirth Suit? - The New York Personal Injury Law Blog

The New York Personal Injury Blog

Sue for Emotional Distress: Price of a Stillbirth Suit?

In 2004, New York changed its law allowing mothers to sue for emotional distress following a stillbirth caused by a hospital's negligence. Now, the first stillbirth lawsuits are winding their way through New York courts that will gauge the price of a stillborn.

In one lawsuit, an eight-months pregnant Brooklyn woman went to a hospital complaining of abdominal pains. The hospital sent her home with painkillers. That night, she lost her baby when she went into labor at home. After a lengthy lawsuit, a court awarded the woman $1 million for her pain and suffering, reports The New York Times.

In another case, a Bronx hospital delayed giving a woman an emergency Caesarean section that caused the woman to give birth to a stillborn. The woman was only offered a settlement of $500,000 for her emotional distress, reports The Times.

So why the different price tags for the expectant mothers’ pain and suffering? Generally, emotional distress can include a victim’s fright, nervousness, grief, emotional trauma, and other psychological hurt. But does one mother who loses a baby really suffer more — or differently — than any other?

Unfortunately, there is no real science to damage calculations. Courts will often look at similar judgments as a baseline, but explaining the differences between a $1 million award and a $500,000 settlement can most likely be chalked up to the facts in each case or sometimes, creative lawyering and a sympathetic jury.

Mothers who lose their babies due to a hospital’s negligence or now bringing malpractice claims against the hospitals. As New York law now allows mothers to sue for emotional distress, courts and lawyers will have the task of determining damages in stillbirth lawsuits.

What do you think? What is someone’s grief worth?

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