US District Judge Kim Gibson has cut in half the $47 million jury verdict awarded to a five-year-old girl who suffered severe head injuries after being subjected to the strange compression treatments of Dr. John O. Chan, a physician at Johnstown’s Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, the Legal Intelligencer reports.
Clear-Cut Case Of Birth Malpractice Ends In Huge Award
A federal jury for the US District Court of Western Pennsylvania awarded the girl and her family the whopping sum in April 2018, but never considered the question of Chan’s liability. The case of Dr. Chan’s negligence was heard as a bench trial, with Judge Gibson presiding.
In his own review of the evidence, Judge Gibson found overwhelming evidence to suggest that Dr. Chan, by wrapping the girl’s head in an ACE bandage shortly after birth, had administered negligent medical care. The plaintiff-child had been born with cephalohematoma, a form of internal bleeding inside the skull.
But Dr. Chan, without explanation, diagnosed the child with a subgaleal hemorrhage, a far more severe form of internal bleeding. And his method of “therapy” was a deviation from the standard of care, Judge Gibson found, basing his analysis of the facts on expert testimony from multiple pediatric specialists who examined the girl later. The child’s head remained wrapped in the ACE bandage for almost 2 days, even as it became increasingly clear that the “treatment” was making things worse.
Physician Confessed To Medical Negligence
Perhaps even more astonishing, though, was that Dr. Chan admitted to medical malpractice. In a pre-trial hearing, Judge Gibson noted in a court order, the physician had “explicitly testified that his conduct did not meet the standard of care.”
Clearly, Judge Gibson concluded, Dr. Chan and the Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center would have to pay for their sub-standard treatment. There was no jury on earth, he said, that could doubt the negligence of Dr. Chan’s egregious behavior.
How much the two defendants would be required to pay, though, was left to a jury. Convened in the Pennsylvania federal court, a 12-member jury heard the evidence for 4 days, then returned its verdict. Dr. Chan and the hospital were ordered to pay $47 million in compensation to the child and her family.
Judge Says Damages Award “Shocks The Judicial Conscience”
But Judge Gibson says that award should be cut in half. In an order issued on Friday, July 27, 2018, the Judge writes that the enormous jury award was “unsupported by the evidence and shocks the judicial conscience.” He continues:
“while she will never grow hair on certain parts of her head and will have permanent scarring, she will be significantly less disfigured once the tissue expanders are removed and she will not have any permanent bumps on her head. Furthermore,[the plaintiff] did not suffer any brain injuries, developmental delays, or cognitive impairments. Without diminishing the severity of [the plaintiff’s] injuries, the court finds that the evidence presented at trial simply cannot justify the $43,750,000 compensatory damage award.”
Judge Gibson, in his order, proposes to cut the compensatory damages award by over 50%, to $16 million. That would save Dr. Chan and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center nearly $28 million.
The girl’s family has 14 days to accept Judge Gibson’s proposed damages award, or else have the case retried.