Kira and Alex Charlton filed a medical malpractice claim against Dr. Steven M. Troy and the Crozer-Keystone Health System in the Delaware County Court. The action stems from the birth of Grayson Charlton and a twin sister who were delivered at Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill, PA. The claim asserted that Dr. Troy failed to properly protect the baby’s upper body during delivery, which led to a birth injury that harmed her spinal cord. Prior to birth it was determined that Grayson was positioned in footling breech position. A jury awarded one of the county’s largest civil awards of $40.3 million recently in the case.
Kira Charlton was admitted to the hospital for labor inducement at nearly her 38th week of the pregnancy. Following the delivery, the baby was deemed as partially paralyzed, (which played a role in the large verdict). Grayson is now in the first grade and participates in therapy multiple times per week. Among Delaware County cases, only one judgment since 2000 had surpassed $10 million. Delaware County jury trials in medical malpractice actions have traditionally favored the defense roughly 86% of the time. With the massive award in this case, it is apparent that the jury believed that the doctor demonstrated negligence.
Grayson will have costly medical expenses throughout her life. The claim stated that Dr. Troy had insufficient training and qualifications to be responsible for such a complex delivery. The plaintiffs referred to his approach as being overly aggressive. Paul Caruso, an instructor with the Harvard Medical School, provided testimony that the brain scan results suggested that trauma occurred during the delivery.
Doctors with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) provided care for Grayson several days after her birth. Their findings were consistent with others regarding the evidence of “significant trauma”. In a statement regarding the matter, a spokesperson for the Crozer-Keystone Health System stated their deep sympathy, but expressed their belief that the care provided was both timely and clinically sound. The health network has since been under new management. The award allocated $30 million for future costs of medical care and $10 million for pain and suffering.
Some experts were skeptical about whether the plaintiffs will actually receive the full amounts of the awards. Eric Feldman, an expert in medical policy from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, assumes that there will be an appeal and that ultimately the award could be merely a fraction of $40 million. He explained that factors involved include the hospital’s insurance coverage and the plaintiff’s motivation to have the matter resolved.
Pennsylvania law does not place limits on non-economic recoverable damages in claims of medical malpractice. Federal legislators have recently been discussing the implementation of national limits on awards for non-economic damages as part of the potential reformation of Obamacare; however, recently these discussions have stalled and appear to be less of a priority for the time being.