A young girl in Pennsylvania has been awarded over $40 million in damages for a spinal injury she sustained at the time of her birth, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, a jury for the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas concluded that Dr. Steven Troy at Delaware County Memorial Hospital had been negligent to deliver the child vaginally.
Allegedly Botched Delivery Left Young Girl Paralyzed
The daughter of Pennsylvania State Representative Alex Charlton, Grayson Charlton was born in March 2011 just after her twin sister, Isabella. Isabella was delivered without incident, but Grayson was oriented in the footling breech position, with her feet pointed down her mother’s birth canal.
Today, attorneys for the family say that Grayson should have been delivered through a Cesarean section. In fact, medical records from the time show that Grayson’s mother, Kira, was told by her first obstetrician, Dr. Stephanie Pearson, that a C-section was the best option. The mother agreed, consenting to undergo the operation, but Dr. Steven Troy, who took over Kira’s care around 7 in the morning, decided to attempt a vaginal delivery.
Obstetrician Used “Excessive Force,” Family Claims
In court records, attorneys for the family describe Dr. Troy’s treatment as “aggressive.” Using a technique known as breech extraction, Dr. Troy attempted to reposition Grayson’s body within the birth canal by hand, the family’s lawsuit claims. Then, the doctor “grasped [the baby’s] body and pull[ed] her through [the] cervix and birth canal.”
But he used excessive force, the family says. “As Grayson’s head was being delivered,” reads a pretrial memorandum, “a loud ‘popping’ sound was heard throughout the room,” according to the Delco Times. The “pop,” the memo says, was the sound of the membrane surrounding Grayson’s spinal cord breaking.
Nurses Noted Signs Of Injury After Delivery
Immediately after her birth, Grayson was unresponsive. The medical team quickly worked to resuscitate the girl, as signs of a severe spinal cord injury became apparent. The child had low blood pressure and, according to a nurse’s notes from the delivery room, symptoms of hypotonia that left the muscles in her upper body limp.
Soon afterward, neurologists informed Grayson’s parents that their daughter may have suffered spinal damage. She was transported to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for further treatment.
Cervical Nerve Root Injury
Doctors at CHOP found substantial evidence to support the diagnosis of a birth injury. Cerebrospinal fluid and blood had begun to collect inside Grayson’s cervical spine, in her neck, and CT scans showed evidence of bleeding in her brain. Eventually, the physicians determined that the nerves in Grayson’s neck had been torn out from the root.
Today, Grayson is paralyzed from the waist down. Now six years old, she is confined to a wheelchair and cannot stand or walk unassisted. At trial, life care planner Val Parisi testified that Grayson will need life-long physical and occupational therapy, up to eight hours of personal care every day, frequent doctor visits, medications and assistive equipment.
Heated Trial Ends In $40.3M Award
The trial was contentious from the start, according to attorneys for the family. “This was a vigorously defended case,” the lawyer told the Delco Times, “in which the defendants argued that the care was proper, and that the injuries occurred well before she was delivered.” In part, defense attorneys argued that Kira Charlton’s pregnancy was “high-risk” long before she ever encountered Dr. Troy, citing evidence that Grayson had exhibited signs of an abnormal heart rate and intrauterine growth deficiency.
These arguments didn’t prove particularly convincing, at least where the jury was concerned. After two weeks of court proceedings, the jury found Dr. Steven Troy, Delaware County Memorial Hospital and Crozer-Keystone Health System, a company that owns five Delaware County hospitals, including Memorial, liable for Grayson’s severe injuries. The defendants have been ordered to pay $40.3 million in compensation, with $10 million designed to compensate the young girl for her pain and suffering. One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys says that Crozer-Keystone never made a settlement offer before the trial.