The family of an 8-year-old girl who was tortured and killed by her grandmother won a $48 million wrongful death lawsuit filed against the doctor who cared for her.
In July 2013, Gizzell Ford died of strangulation and multiple blunt trauma in the West Side of Chicago.
According to authorities, the child was beaten from head to toe by her grandmother, Helen Ford. She had a maggot-infested wound on the back of her head and her wrists and ankles were covered in ligature marks.
Judge Evelyn Clay convicted Ford of first-degree murder and sentenced her to life in prison in March.
“That child suffered a slow and agonizing death,” Clay said. “That little body looked like it had been pulverized from head to toe.”
Just weeks before the slaying, Dr. Norell Rosado, a child abuse pediatrician, examined Gizzell for possible abuse. He noticed an old loop mark on her buttocks and linear marks on her thighs, but didn’t question the child about it alone. When he asked the grandmother about the injuries, she said the child harmed herself. Rosado didn’t question her further. He also didn’t inform DCFS about the injuries he saw.
The wrongful death lawsuit filed against Rosado accused him of failing to alert authorities about signs of abuse, not asking enough questions about the injuries and failing to properly document the injuries in his reports.
“We just wanted justice for Gizzell, and in our eyes we got it,” said her mother Sandra Mercado. “I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Jurors were asked to determine whether it was more likely than not that Rosado didn’t act as reasonably careful doctor would under the same circumstances.
During the trial, Rosado denied the accusations and told the jury that the abrasions he found on Gizzell’s body did not indicate child abuse.
Rosado’s lawyer, Chaka Patterson, said that Rosado shouldn’t held responsible for Helen Ford’s actions. He told the jurors that at least half of all children who see a doctor will have scratches and abrasions, but the doesn’t mean there is abuse.
The jury, however, sided with Gizzell’s family and awarded them the amount of money they asked for.
Juror Lawrence Morris, 52, admitted it was hard to sit in the courtroom and not say anything.
“What happened to this little girl was really devastating and disturbing, so we took our role seriously,” said a 50-year-old juror who didn’t give his name, explaining that jurors wanted to take a stand for her.
Martin Dolan, the family’s attorney, said the jury’s verdict should send a message to medical professionals responsible for fighting child abuse.
“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.”