An Ohio State jury has awarded $11.35 million in compensation to a boy, now 16-years-old, who suffered brain injuries during his birth, the Akron Beacon Journal reports.
16 Years After Birth, Boy Wins Damages For Brain Injury
The judgment, rendered after two weeks of trial on January 16, 2018, was delivered by a jury in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas.
In their birth injury lawsuit, a couple from Massillon, Ohio accused obstetrician Dr. Laura Fortner and her former employer, Canton’s Atrium OB/GYN, of committing medical negligence during the 2001 delivery of their son. Court records show that Dr. Fortner handled the child’s birth on April 26, 2001, using a combination of forceps and vacuum extraction to assist a vaginal delivery. At trial, attorneys for the family argued that Dr. Fortner should instead have attempted a Caesarean section.
Doctor Missed Chance For C-Section, Family Claims
As the lawyers noted, the child was large for gestational age and presented in the breech position, meaning his feet were facing downwards through the birth canal. These are all signs of a difficult delivery, the attorneys argued, one in which standard guidelines would indicate a c-section.
But in her choice to continue with an assisted vaginal delivery, Dr. Fortner “traumatized” the newborn, the family’s lawyers said. During court proceedings, the legal team introduced medical reports that appear to show the child was born with bruises on his head.
Parents Notice Signs Of Developmental Delay Years Later
After his birth, the child appeared fine, despite his superficial injuries. He was kept in the neonatal intensive care unit, where doctors informed the parents that their child may have suffered permanent injuries, but was released shortly after.
“The boy initially appeared to be normal functioning,” the Beacon Journal writes, “but his parents began to notice social and developmental delays as he got older.” Around the age of 9 or 10, “reality set in,” says Michael Becker, the attorney who represented the family.
While earlier diagnosis suggested that the child had an autism spectrum disorder, the results of an MRI scan showed evidence of brain damage. And the site of the boy’s most-extensive brain damage was exactly where the largest contusion had been located at the time of his birth. He now lives with intellectual and social disabilities, his parents say.
Obstetrician Found Negligent In Ohio Trial
At trial, the physician and her former medical practice argued that Fortner’s actions had been within clinical standards of care. They also claimed that the child’s brain injuries were caused by other factors, not the obstetrician’s intervention techniques. As we now know, the Summit County disagreed with the defendants’ interpretation of events.
After a full day of deliberations, the jury awarded the family over $11 million in compensation, finding that Dr. Fortner had been negligent by failing to maintain thorough medical charts, failing to perform a medically-necessary c-section and allowing a “prolonged, protracted labor” to develop through poor communication. The family has been awarded $9.5 million to cover their future economic losses, along with $1.85 million for their future noneconomic losses.