On January 23, 2018, after more than two weeks of trial, a Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of a now 6-year-old girl who suffered catastrophic injuries during birth that left her paralyzed below her chest due to a spinal injury.
The Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury awarded the plaintiff a total of $40.26 million in compensatory damages, which included $10 million for past and future pain and suffering, and the balance for future economic damages.
An economist who testified as an expert during trial on behalf of the plaintiff testified that the child’s future medical care will cost an estimated $29 million. A life care planner who testified as an expert during trial on behalf of the plaintiff testified that the child will need lifelong care that will include physical therapy, occupational therapy, doctor visits, and assistance on a daily basis. The child will be confined to a wheelchair the rest of her life, is incontinent, and cannot feed herself.
The mother was admitted to the hospital on March 2, 2011 for induction of labor for delivery of her twin girls. The mother’s pregnancy was high-risk due to having twins but was otherwise uncomplicated. The babies appeared healthy in utero and delivery was expected to be uneventful. The mother expected that her twins would be delivered by Cesarean section delivery.
The defendant obstetrician determined at the time of labor that it would be appropriate to deliver the twins vaginally. One of the babies was successfully delivered vaginally but the other baby was in the footling breech position (one or both feet point downward and would be delivered before the rest of the baby’s body). The plaintiff alleged in the Pennsylvania birth injury medical malpractice case that the second baby should have been delivered by Cesarean section and not vaginally.
What happened next was in dispute. The plaintiff alleged that excessive force was used during delivery that caused the baby to suffer a traumatic spinal injury. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant obstetrician (OB) grasped the baby’s body during delivery and pulled on her through the birth canal during which a “loud popping sound was heard throughout the room,” which was reportedly documented by a nurse’s note. The plaintiff alleged that the baby suffered the traumatic spinal injury at that time by the excessive force used during the delivery.
The defendant OB argued that vaginal delivery of the second baby was appropriate and did not violate the standard of care. The defendant OB contended that the mother was told that a Cesarean section delivery would be performed only if the baby’s head was not in the head down position. The defendant further alleged that despite the popping sound heard by everyone in the delivery room, no one could attribute the sound to a specific cause and that traction was not being applied at the time of the popping sound. The defendant further noted that the second twin had been diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction and her fetal heart rate was tachycardic, and argued that it was pure speculation that a spinal injury occurred during delivery.
The plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney stated after the jury’s verdict, “I don’t think it was one piece as much as the evidence overall … [w]ith all of these medical facts in the case, you don’t get this injury in utero. It has to be excessive traction at birth.”
If you or your baby suffered a birth injury (or worse) during labor and/or delivery in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Pennsylvania birth injury lawyer, or a birth injury lawyer in your state, who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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