The Neonatology Expert Witness & $47M Birth Trauma Award

A Pennsylvania federal jury awarded $47M to parents in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed on behalf of their daughter. Ian Harker and Corradina Baldacchino filed their lawsuit against Dr. John Chan, the Conemaugh Memorial Health Center, the Conemaugh Health System, as well as Duke Lifepoint Healthcare. In the Western District of Pennsylvania case (3:15-cv-00277-KRG), plaintiffs argued that Chan’s decision to use a head wrap on their newborn daughter caused lasting injuries. The Texas family held Chan responsible for their daughter’s permanent head scarring stating that she will never grow a full head of hair and will face a lifetime of reconstructive surgeries. The complaint states:

As set forth more fully below, the care and treatment provided by Defendants and their agents, servants and/or employees to minor-daughter GH, as set forth herein, was negligent and a substantial factor that increased the risk of harm and/or caused minor-daughter GH to suffer the following injuries and their sequela:

  1. pressure ischemia and necrosis of the forehead and scalp;

  2. ischemia/necrosis of the skin and underlying tissues of the scalp;

  3. ischemia/necrosis of the skull and periosteum;

  4. bruising, swelling, edema and fissures of the forehead and scalp;

  5. extensive eschars of the scalp;

  6. severe scarring of the skin, underlying tissues of the scalp, and skull;

  7. swelling and injury around the right eye;

  8. skull damage preventing and/or delaying closure of the anterior fontanel; loss of hair;

  9. permanent alopecia;

  10. future need for high-risk, complex surgical procedures…

Chan’s defense attorneys argued that the neonatologist ordered the bandage for the three pound baby when he saw a hemorrhage growing at the base of her skull and was concerned it could become fatal. Chan testified that he has used the procedure successfully multiple times previously.

However, the plaintiff’s neonatology expert opined that there is no evidence that the Ace Bandage head wrap procedure is safe and that Chan violated the medical standard of care. The medical expert testified that Chan should have ordered further radiology scans to follow-up and failed to diagnose cephalohematoma. The bandage was left on for three days and the baby’s face began to swell causing permanent damage. The family sought more than $3M. The Pennsylvania jury awarded them $47M in damages.

Neonatologists are pediatricians who specialize in the treatment of newborns through the first thirty days of life. Most neonatologists treat premature and high-risk infants. BirthInjuryGuide.com tells that “at least 2% of live births in the U.S. are adversely affected by physical injuries not related to any congenital condition.” The most common neonatal injuries affect a baby’s head, neck, and shoulders. Birth traumas include brachial palsy, oxygen deprivation, fractures, swelling of the scalp (caput succedaneum), and bleeding under the scalp (cephalohematoma).  A neonatology expert witness is commonly needed in cases of poor outcomes related to birth trauma. These experts explain complex medical conditions and provide unbiased testimony to the court. Contact ELITE Medical Experts to be connected with a university professor in full-time clinical practice who has been specifically selected for the fact pattern in your case.

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