Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Pennsylvania birth injury plaintiffs win $55 million verdict

A child born in Pittsburgh with mental and physical disabilities may require a lifetime of special care, including extraordinary emotional and financial investments by parents. Pennsylvania civil courts do not expect parents to shoulder these responsibilities alone when an infant suffers a birth injury caused by a negligent nurse, doctor or hospital.

Severe health problems develop when an infant doesn't receive a sufficient supply of oxygen during the delivery process. Obstetricians must be ready to act decisively when the health of a mother or baby is endangered.

An Eastern Pennsylvania jury recently ruled a hospital and doctor were equally to blame for a 2009 birth injury.

The plaintiffs argued the physician dismissed signs of fetal distress, causing the infant to receive inadequate oxygen. The family of the boy stated the obstetrician could have prevented or minimized harm by performing a Caesarean section. Problems during the vaginal delivery again limited the baby's oxygen supply and forced the hemorrhaging mother into emergency surgery.

The child, now 4, was diagnosed with serious developmental problems and cerebral palsy. Medical malpractice damages of $55 million were awarded to the family to cover the costs of the boy's long-term care.

The plaintiffs and defendants came to an agreement prior to the judgment that set limits on the least amount the child's family would accept and the highest amount the two defendants would pay. Reports did not say whether the litigants' terms and the jury's award decision were similar.

The birth injury verdict became the second highest damage award ever recorded in Lehigh County. The same hospital was ordered to pay $95 million in the county's largest award case, a wrongful death action for eight patients murdered by a male nurse.

Compensation cannot right patient wrongs caused by hospital negligence or doctors' incompetence. Damage awards compel defendants to accept responsibility for a victim or family's injury-related, present and future financial crises.

Source: The Express-Times, "Jury awards family $55 million for boy's injuries at birth at St. Luke's University Hospital" Precious Petty, Dec. 24, 2013

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