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Pennsylvania Jury Awards $4 Million in Birth Injury Lawsuit

Birth Injury Lawsuit

Birth Injury Lawsuit Last week, a Pennsylvania jury held a doctor liable for a cerebral palsy birth injury, awarding $4 million to the child and her mother. The jury found that the obstetrician’s negligence in failing to perform a Cesarean section when the mother’s labor stalled  for nearly eight hours caused the little girl, now 4 years old, to be born with mild cerebral palsy and neurological injuries.

Following a four-day trial, the Lehigh County Court determined that Dr. Garry C. Karounos’ decision to continue with natural delivery constituted negligence, according to a report by a Lehigh County’s The Morning Call. The birth injury lawsuit award is one of the largest jury verdicts in the area, with only one other medical malpractice award exceeding $1 million in the past two years.

Details of birth injury lawsuit

Dr. Karounos disputes that he failed to follow the standard of care in dealing with the August 2009 labor complication, but the mother’s attorney put forth evidence that Dr. Karounos failed to heed the warning signs that a C-section delivery might be warranted.

“She was coming in with a large baby; everyone knew that,” the mother’s Philadelphia attorney told The Morning Call. An ultrasound just days before the delivery indicated that the baby measured very large, weighing in at about ten pounds.

Still, Dr. Karounos argues that the jury did not fully take into account the clinical evidence he presented showing that the care he gave the woman and her baby was appropriate and did not amount to medical malpractice, even though a complication occurred that resulted in a cerebral palsy birth injury.

Delivery complications

During the trial, an expert witness called by the mother’s legal team testified that the doctor should have recognized that the prolonged stall in labor called for a Cesarean section. Instead, Dr. Karounos proceeded with the natural delivery, using forceps to extract the baby after her shoulder became lodged behind her mother’s pelvic bone. The delivery complication resulted in a 3 1/2 minute period where the child did not receive adequate oxygen, and she subsequently needed resuscitation.

The plaintiff noted that the baby’s injuries ultimately could have been much worse, since after her birth she was transferred to a Philadelphia hospital to undergo a procedure to cool the brain and minimize the effects of the oxygen deprivation. However, Dr. Karounos showed the jury medical literature stating that a baby who suffers a lack of oxygen during the birth process is not at risk of developing a brain injury until six minutes have passed.

“The jury ignored all that,” Dr. Karounos told The Morning Call.  “The jury saw a 4-year-old child who was hospitalized for two months and a mother who is concerned about her child and a grandmother who is crying in the courtroom.” He plans to appeal the judgment.

Both mother and child suffered injuries

While the little girl suffered permanent injuries detailed in the birth injury lawsuit, the mother also claimed she suffered injuries as a result of the obstetrician’s failure to consider a Cesarean birth, including incontinence and the inability to work. The jury took the mother’s alleged injuries into account in its award.  But, with the doctor’s malpractice insurance capped at $1 million, the mother may not be able to collect the total judgment.