Jury awards $120M in birth trauma case that left boy, now 13 years old, with severe brain damage

Posted at 6:56 PM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 23:23:52-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — "K'Jon is a joy. He's so lovable," Kim Drake said about her 13-year-old grandson, K'Jon. "He recognizes people's voices, so we talk together, like, we make noises together."

K'Jon has severe cerebral palsy. He's also blind and cannot speak or walk.

And for years, Drake and K'Jon's mother, who was 19 when she gave birth to him via cesarean section, had so many questions and no answers but suspected something went wrong at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Attorney Brian McKeen, who specializes in malpractice and personal injury cases, said they see a lot of cases involving children who've had brain injuries and the questions are always why? And was it preventable?

McKeen took the case.

"We conducted an investigation and we found out that there was a delay in delivering K'Jon. And that delay directly led to a series of dominoes that fell upon him and resulted in profound brain damage," McKeen said.

Brian McKeen
Attorney Brian McKeen

McKeen said the medical staff had the information they needed to perform an immediate C-section, and that was K'Jon's fetal heart rate pattern was "non-reassuring" — an indication that a baby is in distress and not getting the necessary oxygen.

"It was only by virtue of the delay that acidosis was allowed to occur," McKeen said. "If he had been born in a timely fashion, that would have been prevented."

In 2020, after a two-year investigation, a lawsuit was filed against Henry Ford Health and the medical staff.

Late Thursday afternoon after a month-long trial, a Wayne County jury agreed with McKeen and K'Jon's family and found that the hospital staff waited too long to deliver him via C-section, resulting in severe brain damage.

The jury attached damages in the amount of $120 million.

"It makes me sad and angry because if they had took him like they said they were or if they had delivered him in time, then he might be a normal 13-year-old. He might be riding a bike or playing games with his friends or playing video games or, you know, an average 13-year-old, but he's not," Drake said.

Henry Ford Health released the following statement Friday:

“At Henry Ford Health, our patients are family, and we’ve been deeply saddened for the Drake family since the birth of their son more than a decade ago. At the same time, we do not believe the verdict is consistent with the facts of this case and plan to vigorously appeal the jury’s verdict. Given the ongoing nature of the case, we are not able to provide any additional comment at this time.”

A portion of the any money paid out will go to reimburse the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as they joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs, to recover money they've paid to help support K'Jon's medical needs.

McKeen said he doesn't think there is any basis for the hospital to appeal the jury's decision.

K'Jon birth trauma lawsuit
An undated courtesy photo of K'Jon.

"I really hope they won't drag this out unnecessarily because this young man needs the dollars from that verdict to protect his life," he added.

McKeen said that although Drake has been K'Jon's primary caregiver, his medical needs are extensive and complicated and she's unable to provide the higher level of care that K'Jon needs.

"If it weren't for grandma, he wouldn't be alive today, but she's done her level best," McKeen said. "There are people who can do it better. He's under constant threat of problems like aspirating because he can't control his airway. He can't control secretions and protect his airway the way that healthy people like you or I could.

"He's at risk of shunt infections, shunt malfunction, feeding tube difficulties. Any one of a number of different things could happen to him that pose a threat to his life, and that's why he needs constant medical supervision."

Then there are the simple things that so many people take for granted. For Drake and the family, it's things like having the appropriate transportation to take K'Jon to the park or a show.

"He can have a house. He can have his own room," Drake said. "He's a beautiful child. He has a beautiful spirit. He was meant to be in this world and he's here for a reason."