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Jury awards $4 million for botched birth suit

Obstetrics is one of the riskiest professions for Maryland health providers. Combine the likelihood of serious complications with some physicians’ propensity for malpractice, and civil suits related to birth injury can quickly lead to high monetary awards. Physicians who practice obstetrics are charged with the safe delivery of a human being into the world. When they are negligent and unprofessional, they endanger babies’ future success, causing potential physical and cognitive damage. One East Coast family has received $4 million after an obstetrician was determined to be negligent when he failed to perform a Caesarean section during a 2009 birth.

The child in the case, who is now 4, suffers from complications including cerebral palsy and other neurological shortcomings. The woman is unable to work and suffers from incontinence because of the physician’s failure to pursue a Caesarean during delivery.

Official reports show that the jury verdict is among the highest awarded in the Pennsylvania area. The four-day trial convinced the jury that the doctor did not consider critical factors when deciding whether to pursue a Caesarean during the birth. The baby, for example, weighed about 10 pounds when she was born. Her mother was concerned about the safety of naturally delivering such a large child, but her physician assured her that vaginal birth would be appropriate. When the woman’s labor stopped for several hours, expert witnesses say the doctor should have simply performed a Caesarean. Instead, he insisted on pursuing natural birth, during which forceps were used because the mother was exhausted. The baby was deprived of oxygen for more than three minutes during the birth and had to be resuscitated by neonatal intensive care personnel.

In this case, the physician’s employer, Lehigh Valley Health Network, was not named in the claim. The doctor’s insurance policy covers claims up to $1 million, so it is not clear whether the woman will be able to collect the full amount of the award as determined by the jury. Additional legal proceedings may be necessary.

Source:, “Lehigh County jury awards $4 million in birth injury suit” Peter Hall, Sep. 11, 2013