On September 7, 2013, after a four-day Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury trial in Lehigh County Court, a verdict in the amount of $4 million was awarded to a 29-year-old woman and her child as a result of the injuries they both suffered in August 2009 during the 16-hour-long vaginal delivery of the 10-pound baby (an ultrasound four days before the delivery indicated that the baby weighed about 10 pounds), which resulted in the baby suffering mild cerebral palsy and neurological injuries and the mother suffering a large vaginal tear that extended through her anal sphincter, due to the obstetrician’s alleged negligence in failing to consider and perform a timely cesarean delivery that would have avoided the serious injuries to both the baby and the mother.
The plaintiff alleged that the obstetrician allowed the natural delivery to continue even though the woman’s labor stopped progressing for nearly eight hours. The mother became exhausted and was unable to continue to push, at which time the obstetrician resorted to a forceps delivery. The large baby’s shoulder became stuck behind her mother’s pubic bone (called shoulder dystocia), resulting in a three-and-a-half minute deprivation of oxygen to the baby’s brain. The baby had to be resuscitated immediately after birth and was transported four hours later to another hospital to undergo a procedure to cool her brain to reduce damage from the oxygen deprivation during her birth.
The now 4-year-old child continues to have left-sided weakness along with cognitive and expressive speech delays for which she continues to receive occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. She is in a special education program. Her mother still suffers from anal incontinence and urinary continence due to her large vaginal tear.
On the fifth day of the trial, the Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury awarded the mother $6,530 for her past medical expenses, $64,250 for her past lost earnings, $550,000 for her future loss of earnings, $650,000 for her non-economic damages in the past, and $650,000 for her future non-economic damages (for a total award to the mother in the amount of $1,920,780). The child was awarded $160,420 for her past medical expenses, $1 million for her past non-economic damages, and $1 million for her future non-economic damages (for a total of $2,160,420).
The mother had expressed concern to her obstetrician concerning a vaginal birth of her large baby. The obstetrician reportedly never offered the mother the option of a cesarean delivery. After the jury’s verdict was rendered, the plaintiff’s attorney stated, “This case makes clear that a physician must listen to his patient’s concerns and not disregard the risk of injury to his patients when he is rendering treatment. Patient safety has to come first.”
If medical negligence may have caused you or a loved one to suffer serious injuries or other harms in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state, you should promptly contact a Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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