U.S. government ordered to pay half of Temple University Hospital's $8 million birth injury lawsuit settlement

By Nicholas Malfitano | Apr 28, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. government is responsible for half the cost of an $8 million settlement in a birth injury lawsuit involving Temple University Hospital, says a federal judge.

On April 14, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Mark A. Kearney ruled the government was liable for $4 million of a settlement payment made to a minor and his mother, identified only as “J.M.” and “S.M.” respectively, with the hospital providing the other $4 million.

The lawsuit revolves around medical care provided to S.M. at the hospital by an obstetrician named Clinton Turner when she gave birth to her son J.M., in August 2009. S.M., then 37 weeks pregnant, was directed to the hospital for evaluation of decreased fetal movement. Despite this condition, S.M. claimed Turner waited three hours to see her after she was admitted to the hospital – subsequent to which, Turner was forced to perform an emergency Caesarean section for her baby’s delivery.

Turner, a federal employee, was accused of malpractice in the course of medical care provided to S.M. at the time of birth, resulting in her son J.M. having permanent neurological injuries. These injuries included “global development delay, spasticity, seizure disorder, dysphagia, quadriplegic pattern cerebral palsy, microcephaly, and visual impairment.”

J.M.’s parents filed suit against the hospital in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, demanding $100 million in damages. Facing potential damages of $50 million in a jury trial, Temple University Hospital decided to settle the case for $8 million, an estimated cost figure for J.M.’s lifetime medical care.

Temple University Hospital subsequently filed the instant action versus the U.S. Government, claiming the government was additionally liable as Turner’s employer, a physician employed by the [federally-funded] Delaware Valley Community Health Center (DVCHC), which had a contract with Temple University Hospital when the underlying incident occurred.

In his opinion, Kearney indicated both the hospital and the government shared equal liability in this matter and were both responsible for the cost of the final $8 million settlement.

“We find, based on a preponderance of the evidence, both the doctor and hospital nurses equally share in the negligence creating an increased risk of harm during hours of inaction, requiring the United States contribute $4 million to the $8 million settlement paid by the hospital to the patients to resolve the state court negligence case,” Kearney said.

“We find the hospital’s $8 million settlement is a reasonable settlement given the likely hedonic damages and several proof issues before a jury in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. But, as we find the hospital and its nurses equally share in the harm to the patients, we deny the hospital’s indemnity claim but award the hospital $4 million under the Pennsylvania statutory contribution claim, without interest, costs or attorney’s fees,” Kearney added.

The plaintiff is represented by Arthur W. Hankin, Elaine D. Solomon and Ethan Simon of Blank Rome, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Colin Michael F.X. Cherico, David Andrew Degnan and Susan Dein Bricklin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-01073

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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