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A New York medical malpractice specialist has won an $80 million verdict — said to be the largest ever on Long Island, N.Y. — against two doctors in the birth of a premature infant born with brain damage. It was the second time in 16 months that the lawyer, James R. Duffy of Duffy, Duffy & Burdo in Uniondale, N.Y., has won a multimillion-dollar award involving the same doctors, he said. Duffy represented Maureen Brenner and her daughter Erin, one of a pair of twins born 10 weeks prematurely in January 1990. Erin was born experiencing respiratory distress and bleeding into her brain, resulting in cerebral palsy. The negligence verdict was recently delivered in New York State Supreme Court in Suffolk County in Riverhead after a three-week trial. Brenner v. Ira Spector and Steven Klein and Spector and Klein, No. 001581-1995. Under the award, $55 million will go for custodial and medical care and lost earnings for Erin, with the rest for pain and suffering. An appeal is expected. “She will need full-time custodial care for the rest of her life,” Duffy said, “so that she may live her life as independently as possible, with some dignity, as opposed to being shut up in an institution someplace. She will never be able to care for herself.” Erin, who is now 12, has been featured in clothing catalogs modeling in her wheelchair. “She’s a beautiful girl and her parents are encouraging her as much as possible in life,” Duffy said. Erin’s twin was born without defects. Duffy said he felt one key to the case was making the jury understand the severe problems both the mother and child suffered while in the care of the doctors, Ira Spector and Steven Klein, who have a joint practice in Mineola on Long Island. The attorneys for the two doctors did not return calls for comment. Spector was represented by William Lewis of Lewis, Johs, Avallone, Aviles & Kaufman in Melville, N.Y. Klein was represented by Charles Connick, a sole practitioner in Mineola. Duffy said he had won a $10.6 million verdict against the same doctors in a malpractice case in Nassau County last year. A settlement was reached in the matter; he declined to discuss details. While not aware of any great increase in obstetrics lawsuits, Duffy noted that the size of awards seemed to be on the rise because of the passage of a New York law supported by doctors. Under the law, judges must determine the present-day value of future awards. That determination is then used to set up structured judgments under which doctors and malpractice insurers may purchase annuities to pay off future needs, saving considerable money off jury awards and settlements. TWO VITAL POINTS The Brenner case centered on two points. The first was that Brenner had complained about uterine cramps four weeks before she gave birth, but rather than put her on close monitoring, Spector allegedly told her not to worry about it, according to Duffy, even though she was considered at high risk because she was carrying twins. Even more damaging, alleged Duffy, was that Brenner went into labor, called Klein at 5:30 a.m. and arrived at the hospital at 6:30 a.m. But Klein allegedly did not arrive until 8:45 a.m. and then did a procedure on another patient. Because Brenner was high-risk, the hospital staff couldn’t do anything until her doctor arrived. “In all that time that’s lost,” Duffy said, “they could have been administering drugs to stop the labor and to mature the infant’s lungs so she could breathe when she was born.”

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