Jury Awards Mother Of Brain-Damaged Boy $17M In LawsuitApr 19, 2005 | AP
A woman who sued a hospital and two doctors over brain damage to her son, who nearly bled to death in the womb, has been awarded $17.1 million by a Snohomish County Superior Court jury.
The award, one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in state history, was reached Friday in a lawsuit brought by Tami Lafferty, formerly of Lynnwood and now of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., against Stevens Hospital in Edmonds and two physicians.
Jurors found the hospital responsible for 80 percent of the damages, or $13.7 million, with Dr. Jae Sim responsible for 15 percent and Dr. Myra Horiuchi for 5 percent. Edmonds Family Medicine Clinic, also named as a defendant, was absolved of liability.
In a statement issued Sunday, hospital Chief Executive Dr. John T. Todd said the verdict would be appealed.
The case was the second large malpractice case involving a difficult birth and the hospital's radiology department in the late 1990s.
In 2002 the hospital agreed to pay $13 million a state record for an out-of-court settlement in a medical malpractice case to resolve a lawsuit over damage to a baby whose size was underestimated, resulting in an attempt at a vaginal delivery that had to be abandoned in favor of a Caesarean section on Oct. 19-20, 1997.
Lafferty's case centered on an ultrasound examination that was performed before she gave birth to her son, Benjamin.
Because of a rare medical condition called fetal maternal hemorrhage, the child lost 75 percent of his blood before birth, had to be resuscitated after an emergency delivery by Caesarean section and was left with serious brain damage, impaired vision and cerebral palsy.
Dr. Arthur A. Castagno, who joined Stevens in 2002 and became head of the radiology department this year, said in the hospital statement he had reviewed the records and believes Lafferty, doctors and the hospital staff did all they should have done.
Lafferty went to her doctor the day before Thanksgiving in 1998 and reported decreased movement by the fetus. The physician referred her to Stevens for an obstetric ultrasound which was interpreted as normal by the radiologist, Castagno said.
The day after Thanksgiving, Lafferty returned to her physician with the same concern and was sent again to the hospital, where a monitoring device showed the fetus' heart had stopped beating. At that point the fetus "was in extremely bad shape," Castagno said.
Lafferty claimed that she was given the wrong ultrasound test, that the first test showed her fetus was in trouble, that she was wrongly directed to undergo further tests and that the baby should have been delivered immediately after the first test.
In his statement, Todd expressed "the utmost sympathy for Tami Lafferty and her son" but said the boy's condition could not have been diagnosed or prevented.
"We believe the ultrasound conducted in 1998 had no effect on the patient outcome," he added.