A lawsuit against the St. Luke’s University Hospital and one of its doctors for malpractice netted a former Lehigh Valley family $55 million. According to the suit, Dr. Ronald Kirner and St. Luke’s University Hospital ignored signs that Matthew Crowell was not receiving enough oxygen during his birth at the hospital’s Fountain Hill campus in November 2009. Matthew was delivered via Caesarean section.
The details of the birth injury suit
The suit alleged that Matthew already had problems getting enough oxygen, but was further deprived of oxygen when he became stuck during the originally intended vaginal delivery. His mother began hemorrhaging, which promoted the emergency Caesarean section. According to the lawsuit, the doctors failed to notice that Matthew was initially having problems with receiving enough oxygen. This led to the delay of the aforementioned emergency caesarian section, which might have avoided the problems altogether. Because the doctors proceeded with the vaginal delivery, Matthew became stuck in the birth canal. This led to further oxygen deprivation.
Unfortunately, the oxygen deprivation at birth led to a number of serious health issues for Matthew. Matthew, who is now four years old, is severely developmentally delayed and suffers from cerebral palsy. Even though nationally renowned experts from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins agreed with St. Luke’s assessment that it did not cause harm to the baby and provided appropriate care. However, as is obvious by the $55 million, the jury clearly disagreed.
The cause of the suit
According to the lawyers that represented the Crowell family, the original goal was not to make a lot of money or to try and ‘punish’ the hospital. The family wanted to have the financial settlement in order to provide the best possible care for their son. Because of Matthew’s health problems, he requires significant medical care and will likely require professional medical care for the remainder of his life.
While the awarded figure is highly impressive, the exact amount that the hospital is going to pay out to the Crowell family is likely to be lower. The family reached an agreement with the defendants that capped how much money the defendants would have to pay in the event that the suit was successful. The family reached this agreement before the jury returned its verdict.
Not a rare instance
While the $55 million originally awarded makes this case noteworthy, the truth is that many of these birth injuries happen every year. These types of injuries, such as shoulder dystocia and cerebral palsy, may have devastating life-long consequences. Because medical malpractice is a serious issue, it is important that those families that are affected hire an attorney who has previously litigated malpractice claims before. Remember that healthcare professionals may have defended against malpractice claims, making it more important to have someone on your side that not only understands the consequences, but can also anticipate the tactics employed by a healthcare professional to negate or rebut the claims.