Plaintiffs Ian Harker and Corradina Baldacchino were recently awarded $47 million by a jury in a medical malpractice case following a trial that lasted for several days in a Johnstown U.S. District Court. Dr. John Chan and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center were deemed liable for injuries that left a now 5-year-old girl with disfigurement after she was born. This award is believed to be among the largest of its kind in the state.
Dr. Chan, who has over 30 years of experience in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, was found to have acted negligently when he had the child's head wrapped tightly in ACE bandages after recognizing that there was excessive swelling. This action is said to have caused her to incur a permanent deformity relating to the shape of her head and has prevented her from being able to grow hair.
Baldacchino was visiting family over Christmas when she unexpectedly went into labor and gave birth at Memorial Medical Center, which is part of the Conemaugh Health System that is owned by Duke LifePoint Healthcare. Her daughter was born approximately two months premature when Dr. Chan delivered her. After recognizing that the girl was experiencing hemorrhaging on her head, he ordered it to be wrapped in the bandaging. During the trial, this choice was determined to clearly be a deviation from the standards of medical practice.
Experts suggested that Chan had made a misdiagnosis of the nature of the girl's condition. The wrap was believed to have led to the deformity by applying too much external pressure to the head of the newborn and preventing adequate blood flow to the region. Over time, the tissues in her scalp simply began to break down. During testimony, Chan admitted that his treatment did not adhere to the practical standards. Moving forward, the girl is undergoing treatment in efforts to allow for hair growth; however, will likely need to cover her spots of baldness with a wig.
The case was judged in accordance with Pennsylvania's provisions relating to medical malpractice, which is when a physician or another qualified healthcare professional demonstrates medical negligence. This is negligence that violates the accepted standards of care for professionals who practice in a given area of medicine. The plaintiff must sufficiently prove that these standards were breached and that this breach is determined to have caused the injury.
The federal judge, Kim R. Gibson, agreed that the defendants were liable in this case, based on “overwhelming” evidence establishing the causal relationship between Chan's application of the head bandaging and the subsequent injuries. In addition, the defense did not establish evidence that supported an alternate theory of how the harm was incurred. A plaintiff attorney explained that the girl may have difficulties as she gets older based on limitations she will face in order to prevent any head trauma. Her doctors are likely to restrict her participation in many sports or riding a bicycle as preventative measures.