Healthcare News & Insights

Medical malpractice verdict: Hospital pays $78.5 million

What is your worst nightmare when it comes to being a hospital executive? Is it paying millions for medical malpractice? 

It’s a reality for the executives of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center (PMMC) in Pennsylvania.

The hospital was ordered to pay $78.5 million in a case involving a child who suffered severe brain damage as a result of alleged negligence.

The child, who is now 3, suffers from severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which the jury found was a direct result of an 81-minute delay in performing an emergency cesarean section delivery, according to PR Newswire.

The damages award includes:

  • payment for future medical care
  • lost earnings
  • pain and suffering for the child, and
  • emotional distress for the baby’s mother.

Shocking details

What makes this case so shocking is that the delivery was delayed 81 minutes because the obstetrician thought the baby was dead.

The mother, who was 36 weeks pregnant, came into PMMC with signs of placental abruption. When fetal monitoring turned out to be inconclusive, the obstetrician performed a bedside ultrasound on equipment that was antiquated and lacked the sensitivity of modern machines.

The obstetrician told the mother that the baby had died. Eighty-one  minutes later, he told her the baby had come back to life.

When the lawyer for the mother, Daniel Weinstock of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig of Philadelphia, questioned PMMC’s Risk Manager, it was revealed there was no evidence the ultrasound machine had been serviced for more than 10 years. The machine’s manual, however, indicated the need for annual maintenance.

To add to this whole debacle, an ultrasound technician wasn’t present in the hospital that day because it was a Sunday. The tech had to be called in from home to verify the obstetrician’s findings were wrong.

Reason for verdict

After the verdict was rendered, a few jury members told Weinstock the reason they found the hospital 100% liable and absolved the two treating doctors of liability was because of the alleged faulty equipment and lack of proper staffing.

Basically, it came down to hospital administration negligence.

The obstetrician remained steadfast throughout the trial that he had performed the ultrasound properly and that the reason he didn’t identify a fetal heartbeat was because the baby had died but then came back to life later.

This case goes to show that while it may cost a lot to buy new equipment or to keep equipment up to par with regular maintenance, it could cost hospitals a lot more in the end if you don’t. Not to mention the damage to a hospital’s reputation in the community.

 

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Comments

  1. Matthew Franks says:

    1) the case is being appealed. There has been no order to pay the verdict award, which incidently will not be the entered judgment amount if the appeal fails.
    2) the plaintiff attorney did not talk to the jury. His claim is based upon what he alleged at trial and his assumption that this is what the jury based their verdict on, but he is wrong.

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