Senate clears $5 million Miami-Dade health trust payment after boy was rendered quadriplegic
Image via AP.

Jackson Memorial Hospital
The boy was 6 when a lab technician's alleged error forever changed his life.

Legislation approving payment of a $5 million settlement to the family of a boy severely disabled while under treatment at a Miami-Dade County public health care facility has passed through the Senate.

Senators on Tuesday OK’d a bill (SB 74) by Doral Republican Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez authorizing the group that oversees Jackson Health System, the county’s public health care provider, to pay the family of Harry Augustin Shumow.

Shumow was 6 years old when, on Aug. 22, 2017, he was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital with acute liver failure, hyperglycemia dehydration, hypotension and signs of acute kidney injury.

Just over two weeks later, he was rendered quadriplegic, epileptic, mute and subject to painful muscle spasms.

“This is an uncontested claim for local funds,” Rodriguez said in a brief summary of her bill.

Rodriguez’s bill is classified as a “claims bill” or “relief act,” as it is intended to compensate a person or entity for injury or loss caused by the negligence or error of a public officer or agency.

Claims bills arise when appropriate damages exceed what’s allowable under Florida’s sovereign immunity laws, which protect government agencies from costly lawsuits. While legislation is advancing this Session to raise payout caps under those rules, state law currently limits what can be paid without legislative action to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident.

Rodriguez’s bill passed in the Senate by a 35-2 vote. The two “no” votes came from Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer and Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry. Both opposed several other claims bills Tuesday.

Now all that is needed for the funds to reach Shumow’s family is for the House to approve a similar bill. Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Patt Maney sponsored the House version (HB 6521).

After his initial hospitalization, Shumow showed “significant signs of improvement” over the next two weeks, and by Sept. 6, 2017, he was “reported to be able to answer simple questions appropriately and respond to simple commands,” court papers said.

He was also able to perform some motor functions with his upper limbs and “inconsistently” track movement with his eyes.

But two days later, a lab technician named Simeon Pierre allegedly made a critical error. Testing of Shumow’s bloodwork showed his hemoglobin levels had plummeted overnight, indicating the possibility of severe anemia.

“The (hemoglobin) result is considered to be a ‘critical’ or ‘panic’ value,” a complaint filed with the 11th Judicial Circuit Court said.

Pierre retested the sample four times and got the same result. Rather than inform a supervisor in accordance with hospital protocols, however, he attributed it to a sample contamination, canceled the lab result and called for blood to be redrawn.

When new tests of Shumow returned 12 hours later, his hemoglobin levels had fallen even further, as had his blood pressure. Medical staff discovered he had been bleeding internally from a prior kidney biopsy procedure. He then went into cardiac arrest.

By the time he stabilized an hour later, tremendous damage had occurred. Shumow suffered severe hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, a brain injury most frequent in childbirth as a result of impaired cerebral blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain.

It left him without the use of his limbs, unable to speak and prone to seizures.

In May 2019, his parents, Moses and Rose Shumow, sued the Public Health Trust, which oversees the operation, governance and maintenance of Jackson Health System, for negligence.

Following mediation, the Public Health Trust agreed in July 2021 to pay $5.3 million, of which the Shumow family has received $300,000.

The family was again beset by tragedy on Oct. 22, 2019, when Moses Shumow, a documentarian and former Florida International University journalism professor, was struck and killed by a commuter train while bicycling in Beverly, Massachusetts. He was 42.

Early this month, Rodriguez amended her bill so it matched new language added to Maney’s bill providing that of the $5 million paid, no more than $1 million can go toward attorneys fees, no more than $250,000 can cover lobbying fees and a maximum $133,344.06 can cover “other similar expenses.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at Jess[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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