Jury awards nearly $98 million to Iowa City parents of newborn left with brain injury

cigaretteman

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May 29, 2001
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This certainly can't help Iowa City Mercy's financial condition:

An Iowa City couple this week received a nearly $98 million civil verdict after suing Mercy Hospital in Iowa City after their newborn suffered permanent brain damage when health care providers “improperly used forceps and a vacuum, crushing the baby’s head” during delivery.


The infant’s parents, Andrew and Kathleen Kromphardt, brought the medical malpractice lawsuit against Mercy Hospital, Dr. Jill Goodman and OB-GYN Associates for negligence throughout her pregnancy, labor and birth in 2018.


The Johnson County jury’s verdict found the hospital and clinic were equally negligent and equally responsible for damages — future medical and custodial care, loss of future earning capacity, past and future pain and suffering, past loss and future loss of function of the mind and body — awarded to the plaintiffs. The jury awarded $97.4 million to the Kromphardts.


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Geoffrey Fieger, a nationally known personal injury lawyer in Southfield, Mich., Kromphardts’ lawyer, said in a statement this represents the “largest verdict” ever made in the state for a birth trauma case. Fieger, Matthew Patterson and Jack Beam in Chicago, Ill., and Fred James, a Des Moines lawyer, tried the 14-day trial, starting March 1 in Johnson County District Court.


Fieger has defended some nationally high profile clients, such as Dr. Jack Kevokian — convicted in 1999 for murder, who believed doctors should be allowed to assist patients with the right to die.


"The acts of malpractice committed by OB-GYN Associates of Iowa City and Mercy Hospital were egregious,” Fieger said in the statement. “As a result of their malpractice by improperly delivering a baby with forceps and a vacuum, and crushing his head, producing permanent brain damage. They not only destroyed the life of the little baby, Scotty, but his entire family who must care for him for the rest of his life."


The jury deliberated about 90 minutes last Friday following closing arguments. They returned a verdict about 3 p.m. Monday.


“Mercy Iowa City is disappointed in the verdict,” hospital officials said in a statement to The Gazette. “While we respect the legal process, we disagree with the jury's conclusion and will consider all available options. Our primary focus remains on providing high quality care to our patients and families.”


Cause of injuries​


James, the Des Moines lawyer, in a phone interview Tuesday said there were three main issues that resulted from treatment and caused the infant’s permanent injuries.


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Kathleen Kromphardt, 39 at the time, was admitted about 1 p.m. Aug. 11, 2018, with painful contractions. First, her baby was having difficulty tolerating labor. The baby was doing well until about 2 p.m. and started having fetal distress — fetus not receiving enough oxygen. Appropriate interventions were taken, which helped until 3 p.m. and then the fetal distress worsened.


James said a cesarean section should have been performed but wasn’t. The yet-unborn child suffered hypoxic brain injury — meaning the infant wasn’t receiving enough oxygen supplied to the brain. The second cause of injury was the use of forceps, which slipped off the baby’s head twice and resulted in a skull fracture above the left ear — causing brain damage.


The third issue was when health care providers used a vacuum, which was attached to the infant’s head to pulled out the baby, James said. There also was hemorrhaging in the brain.


“If the baby had been born by C-section between 3 and 3:45 p.m. the baby wouldn’t have any injuries,” James said.


After birth, the infant was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and diagnosed with ischemic brain injury, seizures, facial nerve palsy and skull fracture with subdural hemorrhage — caused by head injury, according to the lawsuit. The baby stayed in the newborn intensive care unit for 46 days and was discharged Sept. 26, 2018.


Now, the 3-year-old has cerebral palsy, a learning disability, can only stand and take steps with assistance, requires 24-hour care for the rest of his life and likely not be able to work, James said.


What happens now​


A verdict in a medical malpractice suit doesn’t mean the Kromphardts will receive the amount awarded by the jury — at least not any time soon, according to a legal expert. It may be a long road ahead for the family because now they will enter a new stage of litigation — post-trial motions.


Tim Semelroth, a Cedar Rapids lawyer who handles personal injury and medical malpractice cases, said post-trial motions can now be made by the defense. The award likely exceeds their insurance limits, he said, so the defense could ask for a “remittitur” from 6th Judicial District Judge Kevin McKeever, who was the trial judge. Such a motion means he would review the case and could reduce the verdict or grant a new trial.


If the judge finds the evidence doesn’t support the verdict, he may lower the award, Semelroth said. Or the judge could rule the jury made an error applying the law. But if the award is reduced, a plaintiff may not accept it and ask for a new trial.


The defense can also file an appeal, Semelroth said. In the meantime, the two sides could negotiate a settlement. Typically, if a settlement is reached, it wouldn’t be made public. A stipulation of the settlement would likely call for confidentiality.


Semelroth said the judge could take weeks or months to make a ruling. However, his ruling will be public.


An appeal also would be on the record, but could take months or years to conclude before the plaintiffs receive any money.


“It’s a long road before we know what is going to happen,” Semelroth said. “Ultimately, we don’t know what this family will receive or when they will receive it.”

 
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red/green hawk

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It specifically said that their insurance will not cover that amount, so they are going to plea to the judge to have it reduced.
The award likely exceeds their insurance limits

The facilities malpractice insurance maybe. What about the individual doctor's liability insurance? One thing is for sure. It is going to be a long, long, long time before this family sees one cent.
 

MitchLL

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Dec 26, 2018
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Yes I did. The hospital's bottom line will not be affected by this.
I'm referring to the settlement. The amount awarded likely exceeds the insurance coverage.

And as a followup, the current insurance carrier likely drops coverage to Mercy or drastically increases the premiums in the years ahead. And if they drop coverage, other insurance companies will adjust their charges based on this incident.

So, your prediction that the hospital's "bottom line" will not be affected is flat out wrong.
 

red/green hawk

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That poster doesn't understand insurance and how having claims works.
And I don't think you understand how lawsuits and settlements against hospitals and large medical groups work. This is going to get litigated into oblivion.
 

MitchLL

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And I don't think you understand how lawsuits and settlements against hospitals and large medical groups work. This is going to get litigated into oblivion.
You're attempting to change the subject.

You stated the "bottom line" won't be affected.

An increase in future insurance premiums definitely is coming.

Spin any way you wish.
 
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theiacowtipper

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For those in the know, how are lawyers fees calculated. I’d bet a lot that this baby is now on Medicaid, and iowa Medicaid will have a claim on the settlement. Do the couple pay lawyer fees off the top and then have to reimburse medicaid? Or does
Medicaid get reimbursed off the top and then lawyers fees calculated.
 

red/green hawk

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Oct 28, 2009
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You're attempting to change the subject.

You stated the "bottom line" won't be affected.

An increase in future insurance premiums definitely is coming.

Spin any way you wish.
Okay. they close up shop you were right. Any shortcomings will be made up with price increases to the consumer or more importantly the insurance companies paying for the consumer. The consumer in the end will see rate hikes. Their ability to operate the facility will continue. An administrator or 2 might not see a year end bonus but their bottom line will not be affected.

This is part of the problem with the healthcare industry. It is highly litigated. More will probably be spent on attorneys by both both sides than the aggrieved family will eventually get. In comparison to the family the hospital has an unlimited amount of legal resources at its disposal.
 

OrlandNole

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Nashvegas
James said a cesarean section should have been performed but wasn’t. The yet-unborn child suffered hypoxic brain injury — meaning the infant wasn’t receiving enough oxygen supplied to the brain. The second cause of injury was the use of forceps, which slipped off the baby’s head twice and resulted in a skull fracture above the left ear — causing brain damage.

The third issue was when health care providers used a vacuum, which was attached to the infant’s head to pulled out the baby, James said. There also was hemorrhaging in the brain.

“If the baby had been born by C-section between 3 and 3:45 p.m. the baby wouldn’t have any injuries,” James said.


After birth, the infant was transferred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and diagnosed with ischemic brain injury, seizures, facial nerve palsy and skull fracture with subdural hemorrhage — caused by head injury, according to the lawsuit. The baby stayed in the newborn intensive care unit for 46 days and was discharged Sept. 26, 2018.


Now, the 3-year-old has cerebral palsy, a learning disability, can only stand and take steps with assistance, requires 24-hour care for the rest of his life and likely not be able to work, James said.


Good lord. Give them their $100 million, so they can spend the rest of their lives not working and caring for their son, giving him as much comfort and enjoyment as money can provide.
 

QChawks

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this nearly brought tears to my eyes reading this ordeal. I cannot imagine what this poor family has had to go through. My youngest had to go through an emergency C-section and that was an awful experience but I'm glad they made the decision very quickly.

After being on a federal jury I know they can basically come up with any number they'd like but that doesn't mean that at the end of the day that's what they'll actually receive. Many times the figure can represent the shear extend of the offense and can help set a standard for similar cases.

I pray that the family gets all their medical/childcare expenses covered for the rest of it's life and they can provide it the best possible standard of living in the meantime.
 

Hoosierhawkeye

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My wife's OB used a suction cup to help pull our oldest out. He was 11 pounds so it was difficult work.
 

onlyTheObvious

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Yes I did. The hospital's bottom line will not be affected by this.
Even if the insurance covered every penny the hospital will see insurance rates across the board go up. As will providers around the country.

everything is connected and it matters.

as a parent the money would mean nothing to me. It’s an awful situation and my heart goes out to them. Hopefully they find peace.
 
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HawkCat

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My wife's OB used a suction cup to help pull our oldest out. He was 11 pounds so it was difficult work.
Some country doctor delivered me because my mother's usual doctor was out of town. My mother was tiny and I was 10 pounds. The doc should have done a C-section but instead went with the forceps. It was a grueling delivery that almost killed my mother and left me looking like a baby who had just completed a prize fight. I'm sure you are all saying this explains everything.
 
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Hoosierhawkeye

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Some country doctor delivered me because my mother's usual doctor was out of town. My mother was tiny and I was 10 pounds. The doc should have done a C-section but instead went with the forceps. It was a grueling delivery that almost killed my mother and left me looking like a baby who had just completed a prize fight. I'm sure you are all saying this explains everything.

The suction cup did leave my son with sort of a cone head for a day or two.
 
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themelrosemauler

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Wonder what the ob/gyn’s reasoning was for avoiding the c-section? That one bad decision set off a cascade of sh!t. Tragic.
 
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Urohawk

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I always find these takes interesting when the lay public has an opinion on them. Several things:

1. No one ever carries this much insurance. For example, I pay into an insurance fund set up for the state of Kansas. I'm only insured up to 2.5 million.

2. Lawyers get 30% of the settlement.

3. Everyone assumes hospitals have deep pockets but they don't. That would cripple most small to medium hospitals if the insurance doesn't cover.

4. Most juries rule against the plaintiffs (doctors win) but when people hear stories about babies they immediately become sympathetic. I don't have any comments on the merits of this case or this personal story. It's a horrible tragedy either way. Sometimes this can be prevented but sometimes it just happens in medicine. Put yourself in the doctors shoes as well. Most are doing the best they can and now you have to live with the fact you're responsible for this child's future. It's a terrible feeling.

5. Crazy monetary awards like this stupid. They should be really based on care needs for the child when it comes to help, future medical visits, educational needs, home care, etc. Put yourself on the other end of it. Say you caused a bad car accident and are insured for 250K on your liability. Now you're personally responsible for all the other medical bills of the person involved.

6. It will be a while before the family sees any money and the suit will be incredibly reduced.
 

Urohawk

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In comparison to the family the hospital has an unlimited amount of legal resources at its disposal.
Most hospitals have attorney's on retainer to advise them but they don't litigate cases. This is done outside and the hospital has to pay appropriate legal fees. This family is well represented. Their attorney is famous. He won't take any money from them until they have a settlement pay. He's in for the long haul and can afford to be playing the waiting game.

 

red/green hawk

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Most hospitals have attorney's on retainer to advise them but they don't litigate cases. This is done outside and the hospital has to pay appropriate legal fees. This family is well represented. Their attorney is famous. He won't take any money from them until they have a settlement pay. He's in for the long haul and can afford to be playing the waiting game.

How many malpractice suits do you think an average hospital is invovled with a year?
 

IA_HAWKI

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I get a chuckle out of Feiger’s commercials anytime i see them when I am in Michigan.
“I dont do skits with my mom”

 

SoonerBeAHawk

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Nov 27, 2005
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Egad!

"...health care providers improperly used forceps and a vacuum, crushing the baby’s head during delivery."

Sounds like they were trying to perform an abortion rather than a delivery. Horrific!

Amirite?
 

Tenacious E

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The award likely exceeds their insurance limits

The facilities malpractice insurance maybe. What about the individual doctor's liability insurance? One thing is for sure. It is going to be a long, long, long time before this family sees one cent.
The verdict was split 50/50. You think anyone carries insurance with $50M limits?
 
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Tenacious E

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For those in the know, how are lawyers fees calculated. I’d bet a lot that this baby is now on Medicaid, and iowa Medicaid will have a claim on the settlement. Do the couple pay lawyer fees off the top and then have to reimburse medicaid? Or does
Medicaid get reimbursed off the top and then lawyers fees calculated.
I think there is a brain injury waiver for Medicaid and future medical expenses are not recoverable from the award. Stated another way, the plaintiffs' attorney will get a lot, and the family will get a lot for future medical expenses that they won't actually have to pay.
 

Tenacious E

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I pray that the family gets all their medical/childcare expenses covered for the rest of it's life and they can provide it the best possible standard of living in the meantime.
They will through the government.
 
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theiacowtipper

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I think there is a brain injury waiver for Medicaid and future medical expenses are not recoverable from the award. Stated another way, the plaintiffs' attorney will get a lot, and the family will get a lot for future medical expenses that they won't actually have to pay.
I ask because a friend of ours just suffered a brain injury due to an obvious medical error. They intubated her and the tube went into the esophagus unrecognized for 15 minutes. They consulted a lawyer but haven’t gotten an answer to this, since she will be in long term care on Medicaid for the rest of her life, if Medicaid would take the entirety of any settlement.

The hospital has offered the limit of their malpractice insurance, I think it was 3.5 million. I might be wrong on that one.
 

Tenacious E

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I ask because a friend of ours just suffered a brain injury due to an obvious medical error. They intubated her and the tube went into the esophagus unrecognized for 15 minutes. They consulted a lawyer but haven’t gotten an answer to this, since she will be in long term care on Medicaid for the rest of her life, if Medicaid would take the entirety of any settlement.

The hospital has offered the limit of their malpractice insurance, I think it was 3.5 million. I might be wrong on that one.
Their lawyer will let them know the score. If the hospital has offered its limits, while no one would trade money for their health, her family is about to become rich.