Recently, a case from Wayne County is garnering national attention after a child abuse pediatrician incorrectly diagnosed a child as having been abused, when in fact an alternate medical explanation for the child’s condition existed. After the children were removed from their parents for months, the Court concluded the child was not abused and reunited the family. The lawyer in that case, Lisa Kirsch Satawa, has handled countless cases like this and is a respected colleague to Smith Blythe, PC.
Like Lisa, our firm has encountered many instances where “child abuse pediatricians” have falsely accused parents of abusing their children. This happens far too often and needs to stop. While child abuse is serious and abusers must be held accountable, it has become way too common for doctors to make mistakes and misdiagnose children. Here are three example cases where our firm has been successful in reuniting families. While these three all stem from Oakland County, we have reunited families around Michigan, with similar issues as well.
In a case our office handled in Oakland County, a couple went to the hospital with their three-month-old daughter because of a bump on her head. The baby’s older sister who was six, admitted that she tried to pick the newborn up out of the crib and dropped her back in. The baby hit her head on a hard toy attached to the inside of the crib. At the hospital, the parents were accused of not having a satisfactory explanation for the bump, which unfortunately had created a hairline fracture in the baby’s skull. Child Protective Services was notified and came to the hospital to investigate. Despite the fact that the parents and their eldest daughter had a completely reasonable explanation, the child abuse pediatrician claimed that the injury could only be caused from a blow to the head – such as one from a car accident, dropping a baby from a two-story building or serious child abuse.
Within a matter of days, the parents both faced petitions to terminate parental rights to their children. Both parents passed polygraphs showing they did not abuse their children, and ultimately a prosecutor investigated the case and realized how wrong the child abuse pediatrician actually was. She moved to dismiss the case and the family was soon reunited.
A young couple from Saudi Arabia moved to the United States and was renting an apartment in Oakland County. One night, their newborn baby rolled off the bed and became unconscious for a few seconds before waking up and crying loudly. The baby suffered subdural hematoma that did not require surgical intervention to heal. Although the parents immediately took the baby to the hospital, they were also accused of not seeking medical attention quickly enough. CPS came to investigate and did allow the baby and his four-year old brother to return home with the parents. Life went on as usual. The father returned to Saudi Arabia where he was working temporarily.
A few weeks later, CPS returned to take the children away and put them in foster care. This was particularly traumatic for the four-year old who did not speak English and was placed in a home where he could not communicate. Because the father had returned to work out of the country, CPS accused him of “fleeing” to avoid charges of child abuse.
The family fought the petition and Smith Blythe was retained to represent the father. Thankfully, defense experts concluded that the child abuse pediatrician was clearly wrong and provided us with articles showing how short-falls can cause major injuries, and even sadly, at times, death. After months of fighting the false accusations, the family was ultimately reunited.
After picking their baby up from daycare, a father noticed that the baby was crying each time he touched her leg – it started when she was being put in the car seat. The parents called the pediatrician and ended up taking the baby to the emergency room. At the emergency room, there was a long wait, and as children often do when injuries start to hurt less, the baby calmed down. The parents decided to leave and head to the pediatrician first thing in the morning.
The pediatrician sent them for x-rays and a buckle fracture was found on the baby’s leg. Additionally, the bone scan showed some bone growth on her elbow that “may” have been from a healing injury. CPS was called immediately accused the parents of creating fractures to the baby’s body and claimed they were not giving reasonable explanations. The baby was taken from them and placed in foster care while the parents were allowed one hour a week supervised parenting time with their daughter and faced petitions to terminate their parental rights. Every time they saw that the “goal” at the end of the case was to have their daughter adopted by foster parents, the tears that fell from their faces were endless.
After retaining our office, we were able to work with some of the top experts in the country who immediately identified why the baby’s bones were fragile and susceptible to breaks. It took months to convince the prosecutor and CPS to work with this family and not try to break them apart. Ultimately, right before trial, the state caved and worked out a resolution that included returning the baby to her parents. Unfortunately, by this time their daughter was already one year old. They literally missed a year of her life, only seeing her once a week to start. It was a complete tragedy based on the wrongful diagnosis by a child abuse pediatrician.
Lawsuits Against Child Abuse Pediatricians
Smith Blythe feels the frustration of these life-ruining situations caused by child abuse pediatricians who get it wrong. With the right facts and circumstances, we are willing to file 1983 lawsuits against doctors who reach incorrect conclusions and rip children away from innocent parents. We currently have a case pending in federal court in Ohio against a child abuse pediatrician. It is impossible to list out the criteria for a good civil case versus a bad one, however, if you call our office for a consultation we will happily look at your case. Unfortunately, due to the 1983 laws being so difficult, very few cases have legs to move forward. However, when they do, Smith Blythe is committed to finding justice for these families and stopping child abuse pediatricians from ruining the lives of innocent parents and their children.