A Pennsylvania family was awarded $41.6 million in damages in a decision handed down April 20th by Judge Sylvia H. Rambo of the United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The verdict is the culmination of a trial and mediation process stretching back to March 22nd, 2013, when the plaintiffs – Christine Late and Nathan Armolt – filed their initial complaint alleging that the significant brain damage suffered by their son during birth was the direct result of a misuse of forceps by the defendant physician.
According to court documents, the plaintiffs’ award includes $5 million for pain and suffering, nearly $3 million for lost wages stemming from the child’s injuries, as well as nearly $33 million for past and future medical expenses.
Plaintiffs’ counsel employed a number of experts – with specialties ranging from obstetrics and gynecology to psychology – to establish negligence, evaluate the extent of the child’s injuries, and quantify damages.
The injured plaintiff was born on February 21st, 2012 at Keystone Women’s Health Center in Chambersburg, PA, a federally supported community health center that provides a range of reproductive health services.
Court documents reveal that the plaintiff’s mother presented to the healthcare facility while in the early stages of labor, and that physicians at the facility noted her condition to be normal as labor progressed throughout the evening and into the early hours of the morning.
However, when the defendant physician went to deliver the baby, he immediately employed forceps, despite his later admission that “there was no concern for immediate fetal compromise.”
During the trial, the defendant physician also admitted that the use of forceps can “increase the risk of injury to mom and baby” and that there was a higher risk of injury in this specific case due to the position of the baby in the birth canal.
Both of these assertions were echoed by the plaintiffs’ experts.
Plaintiffs’ counsel deployed a number of experts during the case to speak to the defendant physician’s negligence, the extent and implications of the injuries suffered by the child during delivery, as well as the expense of ongoing care and treatment.
The plaintiffs’ expert retained to evaluate negligence was a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist with a sub-specialty in maternal-fetal medicine, who serves as a peer reviewer for prestigious medical journals, including the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology as well as Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The expert testified that the defendant doctor deviated from the standard of care in utilizing forceps for delivery, due to the fact that fetal heart tracings remained reassuring up until delivery.
In addition to negligence, plaintiffs’ counsel also deployed multiple experts to assess the extent and impact of the child’s injuries, including specialists in pediatric neuroradiology, pediatric neurosurgery, pediatric neurology, and psychology.
According to plaintiffs’ experts, the child suffered a host of injuries stemming from the defendant’s use of forceps including “multiple skull fractures, pervasive bleeding in the brain, and severe destruction to the cerebellum and brain stem.”
The plaintiffs’ expert in psychology and neuropsychological evaluations determined that the injured child “has and will continue to have significant deficits in social, emotional, motor, and cognitive functioning that negatively affects his development currently and will continue to negatively affect his functioning over his lifetime.”
As a result of his injuries, the plaintiff will require a lifetime of ongoing care and support with little hope for improvement.
The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys Shanin Specter and Regan S. Safier of Kline & Specter P.C.