A five-day hearing led jurors to award $48 million to the family of Gizzell Ford.
The 8-year old girl was found strangled in grandmother Helen Ford’s West Side apartment in 2013. Although county officials had received reports of ongoing abuse, investigations never reached any conclusive end.
Pediatrician Norell Rosado, then employed by Cook County, was part of a multidisciplinary team dispatched to check on Ford’s well-being four years ago.
On Wednesday, jurors decided the physician was negligent in his care, failing to recognize what attorneys say were telltale signs of abuse.
“We just wanted justice for Gizzell, and in our eyes we got it,” said the girl’s mother, Sandra Mercado. “I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
The Chicago Tribune reports that Gizzell’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rosado for not immediately notifying authorities of his findings.
During a meeting with Ford, the pediatrician observed several “nonspecific” and “nonsuspicious” abrasions on Ford’s legs and buttocks. Perhaps due to her age, Rosado wrote off the injuries as characteristic of childhood.
But the physician did note a strange, semi-healed loop-like mark on her bottom – a sign, Mercado’s lawyers said, of physical abuse.
Nevertheless, Rosado didn’t follow up. He didn’t ask Ford where the mark came from or how exactly it was inflicted.
Weeks after Rosado and his team left the home, the 8-year old girl was discovered dead. Photographs taken by law enforcement officials were intensely disturbing – the presiding judge had to delay proceedings after a member of the jury began sobbing uncontrollably.
An attorney for the Mercados, Martin Dolan, hopes the $48 million award sends a message to physicians and officials working to stop child abuse.
“This child should never have gone through what she did,” said Dolan. “There are people in place who should have stopped this.”
“Dr. Rosado failed to save her. He didn’t advocate for her. He didn’t protect her that day. […] It was like a green light for Helen Ford to do what she was going to do in the following weeks.”
But attorneys for Rosado showed a different side of the physician.
Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Chaka Patterson, among Rosado’s defenders, told jurors of the pediatrician’s past – how he’d built a 17-year long career around defending children. The Tribune says Patterson credited the pediatrician with conducting over 3,000 child abuse examinations. He’d also trained 1,000 doctors to identify telltale signs of abuse and had testified on behalf of Illinois in 40 criminal cases.
“Dr. Rosado should not be held responsible for what Helen Ford did,” said Patterson during his closing arguments.
Asked whether they felt Rosado had been “reasonably careful” in determining Ford’s well-being, jurors responded by awarding the deceased girl’s parents $48 million – exactly the same amount the plaintiffs’ attorneys had requested.