Lawmakers approve $5 million Miami-Dade health trust payment for boy rendered quadriplegic
Image via AP.

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

More than four years after a young boy lost the use of his limbs while under treatment at a Miami-Dade County public health care facility, Florida lawmakers have approved a $5 million settlement for the boy’s family.

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

“This is a six-year-old boy who went into the hospital. About two weeks later, he left a quadriplegic with no control over his bodily functions,” Shalimar Republican Rep. Patt Maney said on behalf of the bill to which he filed a House companion (HB 6521). That version was laid on the table Monday.

The Senate approved the measure March 1 with two “no” votes from Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer and Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, who opposed several other bills that day.

The 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 error.

Claims bills arise when appropriate damages exceed what’s allowable Florida’s sovereign immunity laws, which protect government agencies from costly lawsuits. While legislation was filed 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.

Gov. Ron DeSantis can now choose to sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature, according to the state Legislative Claim Bill Manual.

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

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 the boy’s father, documentarian and former Florida International University journalism professor Moses Shumow, was struck and killed by a commuter train while bicycling in Beverly, Massachusetts. He was 42.

According to an obituary by former Los Angeles Times editor Dan Evans, who worked with Shumow at FIU, the family had relocated to the Boston area in 2017 to more readily access doctors Harry needed.

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 [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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