Family files lawsuit after baby contracts salmonella, dies in hospital

Family Files Lawsuit After Baby Contracts Salmonella, Dies in Hospital

MODESTO, Ca. (FOX 40) -- Doctors Medical Center in Modesto, California is under fire after a couple claims their newborn son died in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in 2012.

The Ortega family claimed 43-day-old Lucas, who was born prematurely, may have contracted salmonella from two other babies who were at the hospital at the same time.

"He was born at 2 pounds, 12 ounces," Amilkar Ortega said.

His parents, Amilkar and Kori Ortega, said he was exposed to Salmonella Newport.

The Manteca parents claim staff at Doctors Medical Center failed to properly take care of Lucas in spring 2012. They're suing DMC and their doctor, Frederick Murphy, for gross negligence, battery and fraud.

"We're just here trying to get justice for our kid. We just want to know what happened; what's the truth?" Amilkar Ortega said.

On Tuesday, a San Joaquin County judge ruled that they can go after DMC for punitive damages.

Their case is being heard in San Joaquin County because the couple initially included Doctors Medical Center of Manteca. That part of the suit was dismissed in early 2015, according to David Anderson, one of the Bay Area attorneys representing the couple.

"We believe that the salmonella was actually passed to the Ortega's baby, which then led to him developing a disease called Necrotizing enterocolitis," Matthew Haberkorn, another one of their attorneys said.

In a statement FOX40 obtained, the hospital fired back stating: "Doctors Medical Center will continue to vigorously dispute these allegations. In 2012, the California Department of Public Health thoroughly reviewed our NICU and found zero deficiencies in care."

The Ortegas' lawyers argue otherwise and claim they've discovered a "smoking gun" — an email from April 2012 that they claim was a cover up.

"He (DMC personnel) was told by the person in charge of infection control that he was given a direct order from someone higher up to not investigate this case," Haberkorn told reporters.

DMC said, "We are committed to providing safe, high-quality care to all of our patients. We are unable to comment further on pending litigation."

"Where's his heart at? Why didn't he tell us that there was something going on and give us a chance to make our decision to move him?" Ortega said.

The Ortegas said they just want justice for the baby they held closely. The Ortegas are seeking $50 million for their loss.

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