A Manteca, California, family is suing Doctors Medical Center in Modesto for negligence after their newborn son died in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in 2012.
Amilkar and Kori Ortega said their son, Lucas, was born premature, weighing just 2 pounds and 12 ounces, Fox 40 reported. They believe the child was exposed to Salmonella.
The couple claims that Lucas wasn’t tested for Salmonella despite other babies testing positive for the disease around the same time, CBS 13 reported. Lucas died in spring of 2012 and the couple is now suing the hospital and their doctor, Frederick Murphy, for gross negligence, battery and fraud.
“We’re just here trying to get justice for our, our kid,” Amilkar told Fox 40. “We just want to know what happened; what’s the truth?”
A San Joaquin County judge ruled on Tuesday that the Ortega family can pursue punitive damages against the hospital.
“We believe that the salmonella was actually passed to the Ortega’s baby, which then led to him developing a disease called Necrotizing enterocolitis,” Matthew Haberkorn, one of the couple’s attorneys, told Fox 40.
But the hospital is denying such claims,
“Doctors Medical Center will continue to vigorously dispute these allegations,” they said in a statement. “In 2012, the California Department of Public Health thoroughly reviewed our NICU and found zero deficiencies in care.”
The couple’s lawyers claim they discovered an email from April 2012 that suggests the hospital attempted a cover-up.
“He [DMC personnel] was told by the person in charge of infection control that he was given a direct order from someone higher up to not investigate this case,” Haberkorn told reporters.
Lucas only lived for 43 days. The parents claim the doctor told them the child was doing great and would come home soon just before he became sick.
“Where’s his heart at?” Amilkar asked. “Why didn’t he tell us that there was something going on and give us a chance to make our decision to move him?”
The Ortegas are seeking $50 million in damages for the loss of their son.
Photo Credit: Screenshot from CBS 13, Fox 40