A jury in New Castle County Superior Court rendered a verdict with a $3 million award for damages in a case of medical malpractice. Dr. Peter Wong, an obstetrician with Dedicated to Women OB-GYN in Dover, had negligently handled the delivery of a baby by excessively pulling on the head and neck area in an attempt to free a stuck shoulder. The child suffered injuries from nerve damage that are permanent in nature. In addition, Wong was found to have failed to disclose the potential risks that were involved in executing the procedure.
Due to an agreement between the plaintiff attorney and the opposing insurance company, the family is only eligible to recover $750,000 of the award. Across the state, medical malpractice coverage premiums for OB-GYNs has surged for this higher-risk specialty.
The plaintiffs were Monica Broughton, the mother, and her son Amari Broughton-Fleming, now 9 years of age. The family’s attorney stated that the case concluded in a fair and just manner. He explained that cases involving birth injuries frequently lead to larger verdicts; however, based on Delaware law, which requires unanimous jury verdicts, most are settled prior to trial.
A member of the Delaware Trial Lawyers Association said that birth injury cases tend to result in higher awards due to the potentially permanent nature of the injuries. Dr. Wong denied that he had acted in a negligent manner, rather suggesting that the child’s injuries occurred based on the forces of labor. Experts think it is highly unlikely that his license to practice, which expires in 2019, would be in jeopardy.
Broughton, who currently resides in Harrisburg, PA, developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy and went to Kent General Hospital for the staff to induce labor. Dr. Wong, who had knowledge that the baby’s shoulder was wedged behind the mother’s pelvis, pulled on the baby’s head in efforts to dislodge it.
The baby was born healthy for the exception of limpness in his right arm, which was later diagnosed as stemming from damage to the nerves in the shoulder. The shoulder region houses five nerves and Amari had two that were torn and three with some degree of dysfunction; therefore, he has limited mobility that prevents him from partaking in some activities, such as being capable of riding a bicycle.
Records indicate that Dr. Wong and other doctors at Dedicated to Women have faced claims of medical malpractice in the past. In 2015, Wong was alleged to have prescribed an excessive dosage of a medication which induces abortion. In that case, he received a $1,000 fine from the Delaware Board of Licensure after reaching an agreement in an out-of-court settlement.
The state’s statute of limitations of two years begins either on the date of occurrence of the “wrongful act or omission” or at the “last action in the medical continuum.” An exception exists for child plaintiffs, who have until their 6th birthday to bring a claim in situations where injuries may slowly begin to become apparent.