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$13,629,000 for a boy who has severe brain damage as a result of the hospital and physicians failure to diagnose his mother’s preterm labor and give her a timely dose of Ritodrine

A lawsuit was brought against the delivering physician and hospital on behalf of a child who suffered from cerebral palsy caused by medical malpractice in connection with the baby’s delivery. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that: (1) jury finding of negligence on part of hospital was supported by evidence; (2) jury award of $2 million for past pain and suffering was proper; (3) award of $4 million for cost of group home was not excessive.

Case: Karney by Karney v. Arnot-Ogden Meml. Hosp., 674 N.Y.S.2d 449 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dept. 1998).

Parties:
Plaintiff - Jason Karney by his mother and guardian Sheila Karney
Defendant - Arnot-Ogden Memorial Hospital and Lawrence Dolkart

Court: Supreme Court of New York (Appellate Level)

Procedural History

The law suit was brought by Sheila Karney against the delivering physician and the hospital on behalf of her child, Jason, who suffered from cerebral palsy. She alleged medical malpractice in connection with the delivery. After the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, the Supreme Court partially granted the doctor’s motion to set aside the verdict, granted the hospital’s motion to set aside the verdict, and dismissed the complaint against the hospital.

Summary of Facts

On February 9, 1984, Sheila Karney was admitted to defendant Arnot-Ogden Memorial Hospital because she had been experiencing vaginal bleeding. Her personal physician, defendant Lawrence Dolkart, saw her at 10:50 A.M. and ordered a sonogram. Following the completion of the sonogram, which was unremarkable, Karney was placed on the obstetrical floor for bed rest and observation. Although the hospital record indicates that the first stage of Karney's labor began at 8:00 P.M., Joan Pirozollo, an obstetrical nurse and hospital employee, did not call Dolkart until 10:30 P.M. She recalled him at 11:00 P.M. to advise him that a fetal monitor showed that Karney was having contractions at five-minute intervals. Dolkart then went to the hospital where, at 11:45 P.M., he performed a vaginal examination that showed Karney's cervix had dilated to four centimeters. At that point, he administered Betamethasone to improve fetal lung maturity and Ritodrine to arrest labor. The administration of these medications was stopped at 12:05 A.M. on February 10, 1984 when an examination revealed that Karney's cervix had increased in dilation to five centimeters. Karney's son, Jason, was delivered at 12:40 A.M., weighing two pounds, six ounces with an Apgar score of one at one minute. He was intubated and remained on ventilatory support virtually all the time he was at the hospital until his discharge in April 1984. At 15 months a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, spastic diplegia was made for Jason. This condition has left him unable to walk and almost totally dependent on others for his personal needs. Otherwise, his health has been good except for recurrent respiratory difficulties that have abated; his speech is basically normal and he exhibits normal intelligence. Karney, 674 N.Y.S.2d at 450-51.

Outcome at Trial

After the medical malpractice trial, the jury found that Dr. Dolkart had been negligent in failing to diagnose Sheila Karney’s preterm labor and give her a timely dose of Ritodrine. They also found that his nurse was negligent in failing to notify him of the change in Sheila’s status at an earlier time. The jury apportioned liability to Dr. Dolkart at 70% and to the hospital at 30%. The jury awarded Sheila Karney and her son $13,629,000.

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