A Lehigh County jury awarded $55 million to a family whose child suffered brain damage and other injuries from the alleged failure of doctors at St. Luke’s Hospital to timely perform a C-section.
The verdict, which was first reported by The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, was handed up in Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas Judge J. Brian Johnson’s courtroom Monday afternoon after nearly two weeks of trial.
According to the report from The Morning Call, there was a high-low agreement in place that will ultimately impact the total award received by plaintiffs Mark Crowell and Sharon Petrosky Crowell and their 4-year-old son, Matthew Crowell.
The plaintiffs argued St. Luke’s in Fountain Hill, Pa., and Dr. Ronald Kriner ignored signs that Matthew Crowell was losing a significant amount of oxygen during delivery Nov. 4, 2009, and that he was too large for Sharon Crowell, a petite woman, to deliver, The Morning Call reported. The attorneys argued that the baby lost more oxygen when he got stuck during a vaginal delivery in which vacuum extraction was employed.
The Crowells were represented by Slade McLaughlin and Paul Lauricella of McLaughlin & Lauricella in Philadelphia, who argued, according to the paper, that a C-section should have been performed on Sharon Crowell.
Requests for comment from McLaughlin went unanswered by press time Tuesday.
A spokesman for St. Luke’s said in a statement to The Legal: “It is always difficult to accept when the outcome of a patient’s care is not what is expected or desired. But it is especially hard when a child is involved. In the case of this baby, we know our staff provided appropriate care and did not cause harm to the baby.
“During this unfortunate trial, nationally renowned experts from Johns Hopkins, Harvard and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia agreed with St. Luke’s. Despite the testimony of these experts, the jury had a different opinion. Unlike medicine, the legal system is not a precise science. In any event, our hearts and sincere wishes go out to the baby and his parents and family in this holiday season and in the years to come.”
The Lehigh County verdict came just three days after a Philadelphia jury on Friday awarded $42.9 million in a birth injury action against the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for a doctor’s alleged failure to stop pre-term labor, resulting in a baby being born with a number of medical complications at nearly 25 weeks’ gestation. There was reportedly a high-low agreement in that case as well.
Monday’s verdict appears to be the largest single-plaintiff medical malpractice verdict in the county over the past two decades, as reported in The Legal.
In 1999, a Lehigh County jury awarded $33.1 million in the medical malpractice case Welteroth v. Spectrascan, according to The Legal’s sibling publication PaLaw magazine. That case dealt with a delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer.
In September 2011, a Lehigh County jury awarded $23.1 million in the medical malpractice case Smoyer v. St. Luke’s Miners Memorial Home Care. That case involved a 53-year-old woman who had both of her legs and a finger amputated because of an infection that went septic and gangrenous.
The $55 million award isn’t the largest the state has seen in a birth injury case. In May 2012, a Philadelphia jury in Nicholson-Upsey v. Touey rendered a $78.5 million medical malpractice verdict in the case of a child who has cerebral palsy because of a loss of oxygen during a delay in her delivery.
That verdict—against Pottstown Memorial Medical Center—was the second-largest medical malpractice verdict in Pennsylvania since 2000. A Philadelphia jury awarded $100 million in 2001 in the case of Albright v. Cavarocchi, according to PaLaw.
The verdict in Crowell is tied for the third-largest medical malpractice verdict, as reported by PaLaw in the 20 years it has tracked verdicts reported by The Legal and its sibling publications.
In 2001, a Philadelphia jury handed up a $55 million verdict in the medical malpractice case of Gault v. Norwood, involving a baby who was brain damaged after a heart surgery.