Christina Late is pictured along with D.A. who is now five and suffers from various disabilities after a botched birth
A federal judge has awarded $42 million to the parents of a Pennsylvania boy left disabled because of brain injuries caused by a doctor who used forceps to deliver the boy.
The verdict by a federal judge in Harrisburg on Thursday stems from a six-day trial in September on claims by a Chambersburg couple, Christiana Late and Nathan Armolt.
Their son, identified only as D.A., understands language but can’t speak, read or write and will eventually have to use a motorized wheelchair.
The couple sued the federal government for errors allegedly made by an obstetrician at Keystone Women’s Health Center, a federally supported facility, during the boy’s February 2012 birth.
The incident, which occurred at Chambersburg Hospital happened as the baby was about to be born.
All the signs were normal for mother and baby when after only one push, her obstetrician, Dr. Thomas Orndorf, began to use forceps.
Nathan Armolt is the father of the young boy who is unable to express himself, will not be able to read or write, and will need a wheelchair when he grows up
He pulled once, then forcefully again, three more times. The judge’s decision described Orndorf as ‘straining, red-faced and sweaty.’
When D.A. was delivered, his head showed forceps marks across his face. Within a few hours D.A. started to show signs of intracranial bleeding and pressure.
‘ U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo appropriately held the government and Dr. Orndorf responsible for the catastrophic injuries caused to this little boy. The court recognized the severity of D.A.’s injuries and awarded what plaintiffs argued was necessary to care for him throughout his lifetime,’ said Regan Safier, plaintiffs’ attorney with Philadelphia-based Kline & Specter, PC.
Keystone Women’s Health Center and Dr. Thomas Orndorf, pictured, were found to be responsible in the case
Rambo noted that Orndorf acknowledged that using forceps increases the risk of injury to the mother and baby and ‘admitted protraction of the first stage of labor is never an appropriate indication for forceps delivery.’
Orndorf had no reason to use the forceps, misapplied them and pulled with too much force, causing D.A.’s injuries
One expert testified at the trial that mid-level deliveries were indicated only in severe, life-threatening emergencies.
Another noted that the use of forceps in this case caused multiple skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and severe destruction to the cerebellum and brain stem.
D.A. has undergone six brain and spinal surgeries in the years since his delivery and may need future operations.
The boy, who is now five years old, understands language but is unable to express himself, will not be able to read or write, fatigues quickly and will be confined to a motorized wheelchair as he gets older. He also has aggressive emotional outbursts.
D.A. will require life-long supervision and by age 22, the judge found, he ‘will be too difficult for his parents to handle’ and will likely need to be institutionalized.
In her verdict, Rambo awarded nearly $33 million for future medical and attendant care, $5 million for pain and suffering, $2.7 million for loss of future earnings, $820,000 for the loss of the value of fringe benefits and $104,000 for past medical expenses.
Keystone officials say they’re ‘saddened’ by the boy’s hardships and disabilities.
Joanne Cochran, president and CEO of Keystone Health, provided the following comment to Public Opinion:
‘The entire Keystone Health family is saddened by the outcome of this delivery and for the hardships this child and family have experienced and will continue to endure.
While our providers have performed thousands of deliveries resulting in healthy babies over the last 32 years, that does not diminish the significance and the pain of this regrettable incident.
Keystone has taken all the necessary quality assurance steps so that this does not happen in the future. Each and every patient is important to us and a part of our Keystone family, and we strive to treat them as such.’