On May 4, 2012, a Philadelphia jury returned a $78 million medical malpractice verdict involving a severe birth injury suffered by a now three year old boy with profound brain damage. Although the amount of the jury verdict is extremely high, the amount of medical expenses needed to provide a life time of care for the little boy is also very high. The type of medical mistake made by the hospital may have also contributed to the large verdict where hospital staff inadvertently concluded the baby had died while in utero only to later learn the baby was alive.
In August 2008, Victoria Upsey arrived at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center for labor and delivery. Early on, hospital staff determined there were signs the baby was suffering from signs of fetal distress. An ultrasound was performed. However, according to the medical malpractice lawyer for the family, the hospital failed to provide a trained ultrasound technician and the equipment used was antiquated. As a result, hospital staff mistakenly assumed the baby had died in utero. Later, another ultrasound was performed which showed the baby was, in fact, alive but struggling for oxygen. This prompted an emergency cesarean section but it was too late to avoid brain damage. Based on hour plus delay between the first and second ultrasound, the baby's condition continued to deteriorate. Had a proper ultrasound been performed from the beginning, the family's malpractice lawyer argued the baby would not have suffered severe brain damage.
In finding for family, the jury determined the hospital was guilty of medical negligence. The jury, however, found the attending doctor not responsible. The damages awarded include payments for future medical care of the child, lost earnings, pain and suffering to the baby, and emotional distress to the single mother.
Six out of 1,000 babies will be born with some type of birth injury. Birth injuries that result in brain damage are often the most devastating to families, both financially and emotionally. For this reason, many families struggle through life trying to provide and care for their brain damaged child.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Phila. Jury Awards $78.5M In Medical Malpractice Case, May 6, 2012.
ABC Action News, How Medical Malpractice Leads To Birth Injuries, January 27, 2012.