$3,700,000 For a Child Who Suffered Birth Injuries and Will Require Extensive Future Medical Care

Proper diagnostic practices can prevent irregular births and possible cerebral palsy in an infant. Jason Karney was not fortunate enough to receive a diagnosis on time and suffered a brain injury because of it.

The Case of Jason Karney

Sheila Karney, Jason’s mother, arrived at Arnot-Ogden Memorial Hospital on February 9, 1984. The woman consulted her physician, Dr. Lawrence Dolkart, because she was experiencing vaginal bleeding. Karney submitted to a sonogram and some testing, which found nothing wrong at the time. Joan Pizorollo, Dr. Dolkart’s nurse, did not call him until half an hour later to check in on Karney, even though her labor had started hours earlier. After finally seeing the fetal monitor showing Karney’s contractions, Dolkart performed an examination that showed the dilation of the cervix to four centimeters.

Dolkart administered Ritodrine to decelerate the labor and Betamethasone to mature Jason’s lungs. Through the next day, Dolkart stopped administering the medications after the cervix increased in dilation to five centimeters. Dolkart delivered Jason, who was underweight and needed breathing assistance almost immediately. Jason was hospitalized for months at Arnot-Ogden, and 15 months later, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Aftermath of the Negligence

Jason was specifically diagnosed with spastic diplegia. Spastic diplegia is a type of cerebral palsy that affects muscle control and coordination. This disorder affects mostly the legs and rarely affects arm muscles. The condition manifests itself in the following symptoms:

  • Spasticity (stiff or tight muscles, exaggerated reflexes)
  • Delayed motor or movement development
  • Walking on toes
  • Scissored gait (style of walking)

According to the case record, Jason was incapable of walking and would need the assistance of other people for most functions. Jason also had occasional respiratory problems. Otherwise, the boy had no other problems, showing no difficulties in speech or intellect.

Lawsuit and Settlement

Karney sued Arnot-Ogden Hospital and Dolkart for the malpractice that created Jason’s condition. The jury ruled in favor of Karney, arguing that Dolkart failed to diagnose the labor on time and administer the Ritrodine. Nurse Pizorollo was also found negligent for failing to notify Dolkart in a timely manner about Karney’s labor. The liability was split 70% to Dolkart and 30% to the hospital. The jury awarded Karney initially with $13,629,000. The hospital argued that the award was too excessive and appealed to the Supreme Court of New York to dismiss the complaint and move to a new trial unless there was settlement of $4,529,000.

The Supreme Court needed further evidence to dismiss the case entirely. After enough evidence was gathered and examined, the Supreme Court decided that the $13 million award to the plaintiff was excessive, but that the hospital was still found negligent in their treatment of Karney. The Supreme Court decided to award Karney nearly $3 million after determining that Jason needed to live in a boarding house after the age of 21, plus around $2 million in impairment of earning ability. The final verdict reward for the Karneys resulted in $6,929,000.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused by several different, dangerous conditions that result in brain injuries and other damage to the baby. Some risk factors for cerebral palsy include:

  • Underweight births
  • Multiple births
  • Use of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Jaundice and kernicterus

The main factor that caused Jason Karney’s disability was his mother’s prolonged labor. Prolonged labor occurs when the baby fails to come out after at least 16 hours of contractions. The delayed delivery can make a baby more vulnerable to other risk factors associated with cerebral palsy. Some of these possible dangers include:

  • Exposure to infections or other diseases
  • Prompting use of dangerous tools and medications like forceps and Pitocin
  • Deprivation of oxygen from the baby’s brain
Preventing Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is prevented through several measures that reduce the risk of cerebral palsy but does not eliminate the possibility. Both the mother and the medical staff can do their part in reducing the risk factors. The medical staff can take the following precautions:

  • Constant monitoring of the baby’s heart rate and status through special instruments and equipment
  • Proper use of extraction and monitoring equipment, such as forceps
  • Always having a medical practitioner on site that can monitor the baby’s progress and deliver immediately
  • Attentiveness to the needs of the mother and the infant with no delay

The last two precautions were missed when it came to Jason Karney and resulted in his cerebral palsy.

Consider Taking Legal Action

Caring for children with cerebral palsy will require an expensive amount of equipment, therapies, treatments, and compensation for lack of earning and sudden life changes. Families that find their case of cerebral palsy caused by medical malpractice should seek legal aid immediately to discuss future settlements against the negligent parties.