verdicts and settlements
()

Date of Verdict:

Nov. 7.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Lackawanna No. 14cv7675.

Judge:

Terrence R. Nealon.

Type of Action:

Medical malpractice.

Injuries:

Severe brain damage.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Matthew Casey, Ross Feller Casey, Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

James A. Young, Christie & Young, Philadelphia, for Scranton Quincy Hospital; Gary Samms, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel, Philadelphia, for Dr. Raymond C. DeCesare.

Comment:

A Northeastern Pennsylvania hospital and obstetrician have agreed to pay more than $19 million to settle claims that an allegedly delayed cesarean section caused a newborn’s severe brain damage, recently unsealed documents show.

Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Terrence R. Nealon has approved a $19.3 million settlement in the case Vaccaro v. Scranton Quincy Hospital.

The settlement includes $7.7 million in attorney fees for Ross Feller Casey, the firm that handled the case for the plaintiffs.

According to court papers, Marissa Vaccaro in December 2012 was admitted to the labor and delivery unit at Scranton Quincy, which operates as Moses Taylor Hospital, with signs of a potentially life-threatening placental abruption.

An examination by Dr. Raymond C. DeCesare, the attending obstetrician, showed an immediate C-section was needed to prevent a hypoxic brain injury to the fetus, but one was not performed until 84 minutes after Vaccaro was admitted. The Vaccaros contended that an ultrasound DeCesare ordered caused the unnecessary delay, and that DeCesare should have simply diagnosed the placental abruption clinically.

As an alleged result of the treatment, Emma Vaccaro was born “‘profoundly hypoxic’” and without a detectable heart rate for 12 minutes, leaving her with brain injury, visual impairment, seizure disorder and renal failure, according to court records. Marissa Vaccaro also said she sustained injuries from excessive blood loss and internal bleeding, and suffers from depression as a result.

The suit included claims of negligence against DeCesare and vicarious liability claims against Moses Taylor and related entities, as well as a corporate negligence claim against Moses Taylor and a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants contended that the treatment was proper, the ultrasound was necessary given Vaccaro’s condition, and DeCesare initiated the emergency C-section immediately after confirming the abruption. The defendants further contended that by the time Vaccaro arrived at the delivery suite, there was evidence of fetal brain injury.

Nealon previously ruled in the case that records detailing a doctor’s malpractice litigation history and warning letters his hospital received regarding delinquent medical records are not protected by the Peer Review Protection Act simply because they were placed in the doctor’s file.

That issue had arisen after Moses Taylor withheld from discovery the requested malpractice claims information and corresponding documents, ongoing professional practice evaluation reports and two administrative letters from other doctors warning DeCesare to remedy delinquent medical records. The hospital said the documents were all shielded by the PRPA, which grants qualified immunity to health providers that participate in a peer-review evaluation of health care services furnished by other health care providers, court records said.

However, Nealon ordered the defendants to produce the documents, saying the records were relevant to the corporation liability claims, and they were not prepared by, or submitted to a peer review or patient safety committee.

The defendants made an effort to keep the settlement confidential by arguing, among other things, that it could set a “high bar” that would “impede” future obstetrical malpractice settlement negotiations. But Nealon refused to seal the settlement records, saying that settlement amounts are always dependent on case-specific factors.

According to court records, the parties agreed to settle the case on the second day of jury selection, which started Nov. 1. The agreement was presented for court approval on Nov. 7, and Nealon gave his OK shortly thereafter.

The order outlining the settlement were unsealed just before the end of 2016.

Attorney Matthew Casey, who represented the plaintiffs, declined to comment for the story. James A. Young of Christie & Young, who represented the hospital, did not return a call seeking comment, and Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel attorney Gary Samms, who represented the obstetrician, also did not return a call seeking comment.

— Max Mitchell, of the Law Weekly

Date of Verdict:

Nov. 7.

Court and Case No.:

C.P. Lackawanna No. 14cv7675.

Judge:

Terrence R. Nealon.

Type of Action:

Medical malpractice.

Injuries:

Severe brain damage.

Plaintiffs Counsel:

Matthew Casey, Ross Feller Casey , Philadelphia.

Defense Counsel:

James A. Young, Christie & Young, Philadelphia, for Scranton Quincy Hospital; Gary Samms, Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel , Philadelphia, for Dr. Raymond C. DeCesare.

Comment:

A Northeastern Pennsylvania hospital and obstetrician have agreed to pay more than $19 million to settle claims that an allegedly delayed cesarean section caused a newborn’s severe brain damage, recently unsealed documents show.

Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas Judge Terrence R. Nealon has approved a $19.3 million settlement in the case Vaccaro v. Scranton Quincy Hospital.

The settlement includes $7.7 million in attorney fees for Ross Feller Casey , the firm that handled the case for the plaintiffs.

According to court papers, Marissa Vaccaro in December 2012 was admitted to the labor and delivery unit at Scranton Quincy, which operates as Moses Taylor Hospital, with signs of a potentially life-threatening placental abruption.

An examination by Dr. Raymond C. DeCesare, the attending obstetrician, showed an immediate C-section was needed to prevent a hypoxic brain injury to the fetus, but one was not performed until 84 minutes after Vaccaro was admitted. The Vaccaros contended that an ultrasound DeCesare ordered caused the unnecessary delay, and that DeCesare should have simply diagnosed the placental abruption clinically.

As an alleged result of the treatment, Emma Vaccaro was born “‘profoundly hypoxic’” and without a detectable heart rate for 12 minutes, leaving her with brain injury, visual impairment, seizure disorder and renal failure, according to court records. Marissa Vaccaro also said she sustained injuries from excessive blood loss and internal bleeding, and suffers from depression as a result.

The suit included claims of negligence against DeCesare and vicarious liability claims against Moses Taylor and related entities, as well as a corporate negligence claim against Moses Taylor and a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants contended that the treatment was proper, the ultrasound was necessary given Vaccaro’s condition, and DeCesare initiated the emergency C-section immediately after confirming the abruption. The defendants further contended that by the time Vaccaro arrived at the delivery suite, there was evidence of fetal brain injury.

Nealon previously ruled in the case that records detailing a doctor’s malpractice litigation history and warning letters his hospital received regarding delinquent medical records are not protected by the Peer Review Protection Act simply because they were placed in the doctor’s file.

That issue had arisen after Moses Taylor withheld from discovery the requested malpractice claims information and corresponding documents, ongoing professional practice evaluation reports and two administrative letters from other doctors warning DeCesare to remedy delinquent medical records. The hospital said the documents were all shielded by the PRPA, which grants qualified immunity to health providers that participate in a peer-review evaluation of health care services furnished by other health care providers, court records said.

However, Nealon ordered the defendants to produce the documents, saying the records were relevant to the corporation liability claims, and they were not prepared by, or submitted to a peer review or patient safety committee.

The defendants made an effort to keep the settlement confidential by arguing, among other things, that it could set a “high bar” that would “impede” future obstetrical malpractice settlement negotiations. But Nealon refused to seal the settlement records, saying that settlement amounts are always dependent on case-specific factors.

According to court records, the parties agreed to settle the case on the second day of jury selection, which started Nov. 1. The agreement was presented for court approval on Nov. 7, and Nealon gave his OK shortly thereafter.

The order outlining the settlement were unsealed just before the end of 2016.

Attorney Matthew Casey, who represented the plaintiffs, declined to comment for the story. James A. Young of Christie & Young, who represented the hospital, did not return a call seeking comment, and Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel attorney Gary Samms, who represented the obstetrician, also did not return a call seeking comment.

— Max Mitchell, of the Law Weekly