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Delco Jury Awards $40M in Birth Injury Paralysis

Friday, February 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
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The Legal Intelligencer

 by Max Mitchell


Delco Jury Awards $40M in Birth Injury Paralysis


A Delaware County jury has awarded more than $40 million to the family of a 6-year-old who suffered a spinal injury during birth. According to attorneys representing the plaintiff, the award is the largest personal injury verdict from a Delaware County jury.

The verdict was handed up Tuesday evening in Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Senior Judge Charles Burr’s courtroom after more than two weeks of trial. The jury awarded $40.26 million, including $10 million for past and future pain and suffering, with the rest of the award going toward future economic damages, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Attorneys Timothy Lawn and Stephen Raynes of Raynes McCarty represented plaintiff Grayson Charlton, who is paralyzed from her mid-chest down.

According to Lawn, the trial was hard-fought and there was significant expert testimony from both sides, but, he said, an overwhelming accumulation of evidence pointing toward a birth injury was what convinced the jury.

“I don’t think it was one piece as much as the evidence overall, and that was my theme at closing,” he said. “With all of these medical facts in the case, you don’t get this injury in utero. It has to be excessive traction at birth.”

He said the defendants did not make any offers in the litigation.

According to the plaintiffs’ pretrial memo, Charlton’s mother was admitted to Delaware County Memorial Hospital on March 2, 2011, for induction of labor. She was pregnant with twins, and both babies appeared to be healthy.

The memo said that, although Charlton’s mother had been told the babies would be delivered via a cesarean section, Dr. Steven Troy, who had been the attending physician, performed the births vaginally. The memo also said that after Charlton’s sister had been delivered, Charlton was in a footling breech position and should have been delivered by cesarean section.

The delivery, according to the memo, including Troy “grasping [Charlton’s] body and pulling her” through her mother’s cervix birth canal, but during that process a loud popping sound was heard throughout the room. The memo cited an incident report a nurse wrote that documented the sound.

The plaintiffs sued Troy and the hospital, claiming he used excessive force during the delivery.

Several experts, including obstetrician Dr. Benjamin Hamar, obstetrician Dr. Ronald Wapner and pediatric neuroradiologist Paul Caruso, opined that Charlton suffered a severe traumatic spinal injury as a result of Troy’s care, according to the plaintiff’s memo.

The memo also said Charlton will live the rest of her life in a wheelchair, in a diaper and will be unable to feed herself.

Life care planner Val Parisi opined, according to the memo, that Charlton will need lifelong physical and occupational therapy, personal assistance throughout her days, and regular visits with doctors. The plaintiffs’ memo also said economist David Hopkins estimated Charlton’s future medical care to be $29 million.

In his pretrial memo, Troy contended that his treatment was within the standard of care, and that the plaintiffs’ causation arguments were speculative. Given the positioning of the fetuses, a vaginal delivery was well within the standard of care, Troy argued. The memo further said the mother had been told doctors would only perform a C-section if Charlton’s sister’s head was not in a down position.

Troy also noted that the pregnancy was determined early on to be a high-risk pregnancy, and that Charlton had been diagnosed in utero with intrauterine growth restriction. A review of the fetal heart rates also indicated she was tachycardic, his memo said.

Troy further contended that, although everyone in the room heard the popping sound, nobody knew what to attribute it to, and it did not occur at a time when he was administering traction on Charlton.

Post & Post attorney Benjamin Post represented defendant Troy, as well as Crozer-Keystone Health System and Health Access Network. Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin attorney Stephen Ryan represented Delaware County Memorial Hospital, which was found liable on a theory of ostensible agency.

Post and Ryan did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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