April 21, 2017
A federal judge has awarded $42 million to the parents of a Pennsylvania boy left disabled because of brain injuries allegedly caused by a doctor who used forceps during his birth.
The Thursday verdict by U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo in Harrisburg came after a six-day trial in September on claims by a Chambersburg couple, Christiana Late and Nathan Armolt. Their 5-year-old son, identified only as D.A. in court documents, understands language but can't speak, read or write and will eventually have to use a motorized wheelchair.
The couple sued the federal government for errors allegedly made by an obstetrician for Keystone Women's Health Center, a federally supported facility. Dr. Thomas Orndorf, who was not sued, delivered the child Feb. 21, 2012, at Chambersburg Hospital.
The parents said Orndorf used forceps to grab the boy's head, causing skull fractures, brain bleeding and damage, even though the boy and his mother weren't in distress and such a drastic measure wasn't necessary at the time.
The judge noted that Orndorf began using forceps after Late pushed just one time during her delivery and that he was "straining, red-faced and sweaty" trying to extract the baby, even though the child's and mother's vital signs were normal and indicated no distress at that point.
"Judge Rambo appropriately held the government and Dr. Orndorf responsible for the catastrophic injuries caused to this little boy," Regan Safier, an attorney for the couple, said in a statement from the firm, Kline & Specter of Philadelphia. "The court recognized the severity of D.A.'s injuries and awarded what plaintiffs argued was necessary to care for him throughout his lifetime."
Most of the verdict — nearly $33 million — is to cover the boy's future medical care and assisted living. The judge agreed with the couple that their son "will be too difficult for his parents to handle" by the time he's 22, and will likely need institutionalized care.
The verdict also includes $5 million for the boy's pain and suffering, roughly $3.5 million for his loss of future earnings and fringe benefits, and $104,000 to cover past medical expenses.
Keystone officials issued a statement expressing sadness for the boy's injuries.
"The entire Keystone Health family is saddened by the outcome of this delivery and for the hardships this child and family have experienced and will continue to endure," the statement said. "While our providers have performed thousands of deliveries resulting in healthy babies over the last 32 years, that does not diminish the significance and the pain of this regrettable incident. Keystone has taken all the necessary quality assurance steps so that this does not happen in the future."