A Jackson County, Missouri jury recently returned a record-setting verdict amount for the family of a baby born with cerebra palsy. The award, more than $20 million, is the largest verdict ever given for medical negligence in the Kansas City area. The jury determined that the doctor was negligent in making the errors that resulted in the baby’s brain damage and resulting disabilities.
Failure to Properly Treat Mother Leads to Cerebral Palsy
The mother in the case, Rachel, was under the care of University Health doctor Dr. Kelli Sandri when she went into labor with her daughter Kylie. Dr. Sandri delegated the use and monitoring of Pitocin to a student doctor.
Pitocin is a drug used to speed labor, but it can cause harm to a mother and baby if used improperly. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations lists Pitocin as a “high alert medication.”
Pitocin, also called oxytocin, when given in excessive quantities can hyper-stimulate the uterus, leading to fetal distress. In extreme cases, an overdose of Pitocin has caused death of the mother or fetus. In most cases of harm caused by Pitocin, the issue is the dosage and medical professionals who fail to recognize and manage an overdose.
In the case of Rachel and Kylie, Dr. Sandri’s student was in charge of administering and monitoring Pitocin. According to the accepted standard of care, the doctor should have been attending the patient and keeping an eye on the dosage and fetal reaction.
Rachel was given too much Pitocin for more than six hours. It resulted in significant oxygen loss to the fetus, and Kylie was born with brain damage, cerebral palsy, and severe disabilities.
The trial took just two weeks, and the jury agreed that Dr. Sandri was negligent. She breached the standard of care by not supervising the student doctor more closely and by failing to monitor Pitocin usage.
The jury awarded Rachel $25.4 million. The award includes nearly $19 million in economic damages to cover Kylie’s past, current, and future medical and care expenses. She needs 24-hour care and lifelong treatments. The jury also awarded more than $5 million for pain and suffering.
Largest Medical Malpractice Jury Award in Kansas City Could Be Reduced
Missouri passed a law in 2015 that limits how much personal injury victims can recover in non-economic or pain and suffering damages. In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled a similar law unconstitutional based on common law dating to the 1800s.
The Missouri Supreme Court upheld the new cap passed in the legislature in 2015, stating it does not violate constitutional rights. This means that Rachel and Kylie might see their $5 million award reduced by the courts. The cap does not limit what a victim can recover in economic damages. Kylie will still have the $19 million to cover her lifelong care needs.