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$12 mil awarded to family of brain-damaged boy
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/4/2007 4:44 PM | Updated: 10/5/2007 12:32 AM

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A DuPage County jury awarded a record $12 million to a Warrenville couple whose 7-year-old son became disabled at birth.

Benjamin Hayes cannot speak and has no control over his limbs due to brain damage at birth. His parents, Aaron and Michelle Hayes, filed a medical-malpractice lawsuit in 2001 against the two doctors and Central DuPage Hospital over Benjamin's Dec. 23, 1999 birth.

Last year, the hospital settled for $3 million; the obstetrician settled for $1.6 million. The insurer for the couple's general practitioner, though, opted to go to trial.

The couple argued Dr. Steven Ambrust, who practices in Wheaton, was responsible for a 45-minute delay during the unplanned Caesarean surgery while waiting for an operating room. Benjamin was deprived of an adequate amount of oxygen, which caused the brain injury.

The jury awarded the record award late Tuesday after a seven-day trial before Circuit Judge Hollis Webster.

Benjamin, a first-grader, has a normal intelligence. The money will be used for his continued medical care.

"This is an All-American family who had something terrible happen to their baby," said Keith Hebeisen, their attorney, "but they're doing everything they can to give him as good of a life as they can under extremely difficult circumstances."

The verdict is the highest ever awarded in a DuPage County medical-malpractice case. The previous record was $7.2 million in 2003. The Hayes family, though, still will have to fight in court to get the award. The doctor's insurer has a $1 million cap.