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Brain damage case nets large verdict

Nov 26, 2005 | A federal judge awarded $60.9 million to a couple whose son suffered severe brain damage when he was born in a Jacksonville Navy hospital two years ago.

The award this week for Raiza Bravo and Oscar Rodriguez is believed to be the largest ever under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows private citizens to sue the federal government for the negligent conduct of its employees.

The government is likely to appeal the case or renegotiate the settlement, a long process that could take months or years.

"It's like a mix of feelings, it's been sweet and bitter," said the boy's mother, Raiza Bravo. "Nobody's going to bring back my son's life."

Kevin Bravo Rodriguez, now 2, cannot see, speak or swallow. His muscles are rigid, and he cannot move his arms and legs. He cannot respond to any stimulus except pain, and doctors say he will not live past age 21.

Bravo and Oscar Rodriguez, a Navy serviceman, say doctors waited too long to perform a cesarean section to deliver their son at the Mayport Naval Station obstetric clinic.

But Kevin had had an infection before his mother came to the hospital, and one of Bravo's physicians was an independent contractor, not a federal employee, said Wendy Jacobus, who heads the civil division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami, which argued the case for the defense.

After a 12-day trial that included testimony from a dozen physicians, U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez on Wednesday ruled that the doctors and nurses who attended to Kevin's birth were guilty of negligence.

"This has been emotionally devastating to the family. When someone is waiting for a baby, they're hopeful, they hope their dreams come true," said one of the couple's attorneys. "When Kevin was born, it turned into a nightmare."

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