A federal court jury recently handed down one of the largest verdicts in Ohio history in a medical malpractice case. The $14.5 million verdict was awarded to Nicole Welker and Justin Brinkley against Clearfield Hospital and Dr. Thomas A. Carnevale. Evidence was introduced at trial to show that the doctor, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at the hospital, improperly administered Pitocin to the mother to augment her labor while she was giving birth to her son, Justinian.
Pitocin is a natural hormone that causes the uterus to contract, thus inducing labor. It is often administered by doctors. Side effects of Pitocin are relatively mild for the mother but can be fatal for the fetus. Unfortunately, when Welker was administered Pitocin, the drug caused her contractions to increase in frequency and intensity. As a result of these increased contractions, Justinian’s oxygen was cut off. Tragically, Justinian was born with cerebral palsy and catastrophic cognitive disabilities.
Following the two-week trial, the jury deliberated on a number of key facts, including evidence showing that the doctor and the hospital had knowledge that the fetus was showing signs of distress during labor but took no actions to alleviate the problem. Ultimately, the jury assessed 60% liability for this incident against the doctor and the remaining 40% against the hospital.
Not surprisingly, damages that result in permanent disability to physical and mental capabilities are often quite steep. Medical treatment and bills for an individual with cerebral palsy and mental disabilities are tremendous. Proof at this trial showed that the baby could require as much as $130,000 in medical costs his first year alive, but by the year 2063 those costs could jump to over $500,000 per year.
Of the $14.5 million jury verdict, $1 million was to compensate for the baby’s loss of potential earning capacity. $2 million was for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. The remainder of the jury verdict was to cover past and future medical expenses.
Claims of medical malpractice typically hinge on whether or not a healthcare provider breached the relevant standard of care, thereby causing injuries that otherwise would not have been sustained. In the medical arena, this standard of care is the generally accepted practices and procedures used by a reasonably prudent healthcare provider for their geographic area for patients who are suffering from like illnesses. Each state will have a specific legal standard that must be met. Tennessee law, for instance, states a plaintiff must prove “the recognized standard of acceptable professional practice in the profession and the specialty thereof, if any, that the defendant practices in the community in which the defendant practices or in a similar community at the time the alleged injury or wrongful act occurred.”
As with any tort claim, the injured party must show that the healthcare provider breached this standard of care, resulting in significant injuries that otherwise would not have occurred. Many times the only way to meet this legal burden is through expert testimony. Experienced medical malpractice attorneys in Tennessee understand how to retain qualified experts to comply with the law where the lawsuit is pending.
Call Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz if you have suffered injuries due to a doctor or hospital’s negligence. Examples of medical malpractice causes of action include failure to diagnose a condition, misdiagnosing a condition, surgical errors, unnecessary surgery, or, as seen with the above mentioned case, improper administration of medication. Doctors may also be liable for damages if they fail to recognize a patient’s symptoms or do not order proper testing that could have uncovered an illness or condition at an early stage.