Torts: Conundrums of Causation

For five years, Bandleader Emery Deutsch and his wife vainly sought damages from Manhattan's Doctors Hospital for the permanent mental retardation of their son. The Deutsches claimed that hospital nurses delayed Christopher's birth by pressing a towel against his head for twelve minutes—thus allowing the tardy doctor to arrive and collect his fee. As a result, the child allegedly suffered loss of oxygen to the brain. He will never be able to walk or talk or learn.

In one of New York's most unusual negligence cases, the Deutsches won three successive jury verdicts. The first jury awarded the couple $187,000, the...