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Boy Injured at Birth, Jury Awards $55 Million in Medical Malpractice Case Against Hospital, Doctor

Dec 27, 2013

A jury just awarded a family $55 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought over St. Luke’s University Hospital and one of its physicians.

The jury found that the hospital and physician, Dr. Ronald Kirner, were equally to blame for Matthew Crowell’s disabilities from his birth in November 2009, according to The Associated Press (AP). According to jury conclusions, Matthew received insufficient oxygen during his birth and should have been delivered by cesarean section. His oxygen deprivation, Matthew’s parents—Mark and Sharon Petrosky Crowell—allege, caused their son significant health problems.

The now-four-year-old boy suffers from cerebral palsy and serious developmental delays.

The family’s attorneys argued that the baby was losing significant oxygen during his delivery and was too large to be delivered by his mother, who was described as petite, according to The Morning Call. The baby, who was losing significant oxygen, lost even more when he became stuck during vaginal delivery. Vacuum extraction was used. Following the verdict, the baby’s father told The Morning Call that "He barely had a pulse" when he was born.

The lawsuit alleges that the baby was "pale and hypotonic with poor respiratory effort" after he was born, displaying "seizure-like activity," according to The Morning Call. The lawsuit alleges the baby experienced brain bleeding; his family said his mother was hemorrhaging and required emergency surgery.

The jury found that St. Luke’s and Dr. Kirner are each 50 percent responsible for the boy’s disabilities, according to The award, according to The Morning Call, will likely be less due to a so-called “high-low” deal that was previously made and in which a cap is placed on how much the hospital pays and that also ensures the family receives a certain amount, as well. Such deals are fairly common in civil cases, according to The Morning Call. The terms of the deal are confidential.

Meanwhile, in 2011, another Lehigh County jury awarded $23 million to a woman who lost her legs to an infection while being cared for by a St. Luke's University Health Network nurse, The Morning Call reported.

According to, asphyxia—known as oxygen deprivation—is a condition in which the body and brain do not receive sufficient oxygen, or receive no oxygen. Asphyxia accounts for about 6-8 percent of all cerebral palsy cases and may occur during birth when there is excessive hemorrhaging or a prolonged or damaged delivery, such as when the baby’s head is too large for the birth canal.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) published results on research conducted regarding birth asphyxia and trauma which revealed that, in the most severely affected 208 infants studied during this research, 159 suffered from cerebral disturbances and 39 suffered from fractures and palsies; 10 were diagnosed with fractures, palsies, and cerebral disturbances. Among the most frequent causes was prolonged labor. The researchers concluded that more frequent use of cesarean section delivery and improved obstetrical management might help in the prevention of fetal injury.

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