PORT TOWNSEND, Wash.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A jury decided a $23.9 million verdict in favor of a Port Townsend family whose baby suffered permanent brain injury when she slowly suffocated during labor and delivery at Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center in 2014. The verdict against Jefferson County Public Hospital District, which operates the medical center and several other area clinics, was handed down Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 in Kitsap County Superior Court.
The jury agreed with plaintiffs Anna Scott and Zachary Burke that doctors and nurses missed several critical signs their baby Lana was in distress during delivery with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, depriving her of oxygen. The baby, who was born blue and needed extensive resuscitation to begin breathing on her own, suffers permanent brain damage that will severely limit her mental and physical capabilities for the rest of her life.
At trial, attorneys for Scott and Burke argued that medical providers used a fetal heart monitor during delivery, but failed to realize that it was picking up the mother’s heartbeat – not the baby’s – for most of the last three hours before birth, misleading them into thinking the baby was fine.
“Lana was essentially strangled by her own umbilical cord and Jefferson Healthcare medical providers did nothing to intervene,” said Robert Gellatly of Luvera Law Firm, the attorney representing Scott and Burke. “The medical team’s actions – or inactions – deprived her of oxygen, leaving Lana profoundly brain injured."
Medical experts contend there are several safety measures that labor and delivery teams can use to prevent what’s known as maternal and fetal heart rate confusion, including easy fixes such as routinely taking the mother’s heart rate separately and comparing it to the fetal strip to see if they are identical, according to court documents.
In this case, Jefferson Healthcare did not have those protocols in place. The healthcare providers only took Scott’s heart rate one time in nearly four hours – and then, even though it perfectly matched the heart tracing, they failed to confirm possible confusion or take action to help the baby, the claim states. The care team also missed the fact that the heart rate being recorded was accelerating with each contraction, which often occurs with the mother’s heart but is unusual for the baby.
“There were many opportunities to see that Lana was in trouble, but the medical team missed every one of them,” Scott said. “Now Lana will have to live with the consequences of the Jefferson Healthcare providers’ poor decisions for the rest of her life.”
Diagnosed with severe brain injury shortly after birth, doctors expect that Lana Burke will have permanent cognitive impairment, speech and language deficits, and impaired motor skills. Now almost six years old, she can walk unsteadily but can’t dress or properly feed herself.
“Lana is such a blessing in our lives, and has the most beautiful smile and heart – but she will need care for the rest of her life, and this verdict ensures she has a financial safety net to sustain her for decades to come,” Scott said. “It’s equally important to Zach and me that other parents know about this critical safety issue, and for Jefferson Healthcare to be held accountable so that we can help prevent this from happening to another family.”
About Luvera Law Firm:
Luvera Law Firm is a nationally recognized firm, with high standards of ethical conduct. The firm specializes in medical malpractice, brain injury, death and other major damage cases, and seeks justice for clients as well as positive changes in corporate and governmental behavior. Find more at www.luveralawfirm.com.