Parents in Iowa City recently received the largest verdict award ever granted in Iowa for a birth injury. The verdict amounted to $97.4 million for the family of a child born with severe brain damage, cerebral palsy, and lifelong disabilities. Post-trial motions could reduce the amount the family actually gets.
Several Mistakes Led to Birth Injuries
Kathleen Kromphardt, her husband Andrew, and their legal team alleged negligence on the part of Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, OB-GYN Associates, and Dr. Jill Goodman. Kromphardt gave birth to son Scotty in 2018 after being admitted to Mercy Hospital with the onset of labor.
The hospital admitted her at 1 p.m., and by 2:00, the fetus began showing signs of distress. The staff took measures to cope with the distress, which indicated the baby was not getting enough oxygen. By 3 p.m., signs of distress worsened. He suffered a hypoxic brain injury while still in utero. This loss of oxygen to the brain was just one issue that led to the baby’s later disabilities.
The medical team proceeded to use birthing instruments to aid delivery. They used forceps with enough force to fracture the baby’s skull. They then used a vacuum extractor, a device that attaches to the baby’s head and sucks it from the birth canal. This allegedly caused hemorrhaging in the baby’s brain.
Little Scotty was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals to receive care. The staff there diagnosed him with the fracture and hemorrhage, as well as a facial nerve palsy, seizures, and ischemic brain injury.
The Trial and Verdict
The lawsuit against the hospital, medical practice, and doctor went to trial in March 2022. The Kromphardt’s lawyers argued that three negligent mistakes led to the significant birth injuries: the doctor should have performed a c-section in response to fetal distress, the excessive force with the forceps, and the misuse of the vacuum extractor.
They argued that the medical team failed to respond adequately to the signs of distress and lack of oxygen in the fetus. If they had performed a c-section shortly after the distress worsened at 3 p.m., Scotty would not have suffered the injuries.
The jury agreed with the lawyers’ arguments and returned a verdict in just 90 minutes. They awarded the nearly $98 million to cover future medical treatments, future care, loss of earning capacity, loss of function in the mind and body, and pain and suffering.
Scotty, now three years old, has cerebral palsy. He cannot walk unaided, and he will likely never be able to work or live independently. He needs constant care and many interventions and treatments.
Mercy hospital stated that it disagrees with the verdict. It has not yet filed an appeal or any other post-trial motions, but the Kromphardt’s lawyers expect they will. The family likely will not get the full jury award amount. Motions could reduce the amount, or the family might negotiate and settle with the defendants for a lower amount.