Posted on Apr 26, 2006
Federal Jury Awards $13M to Twins Suffering From in Utero Damage
Shannon P. Duffy
The Legal Intelligencer
April 25, 2006
A Pennsylvania federal jury on Thursday awarded $13.2 million in a medical malpractice suit brought by a set of 10-year-old twins who suffered serious neurological damage in utero that was allegedly caused by an obstetrician's failure to diagnose and properly treat their mother's urinary tract infection.
After a three-week trial before U.S. District Judge Mary A. McLaughlin, the jury deliberated over three days before handing up a verdict in which it found that the brain damage suffered by Samantha and Alec Lindstrom was the result of the negligence of Dr. Morgan T. Smith Jr.
But the jury cleared two other defendants -- Dr. Philip G. Sih and Abington Memorial Hospital.
Plaintiffs attorney James J. McEldrew III of McEldrew & Fullam said the jury awarded $6.9 million to Samantha and $6.3 million to Alec.
According to court papers, Lisa Lindstrom, now of Cinnaminson, N.J., was 32 years old in 1995 when her pregnancy was deemed to be a "high risk" one.
In November 1995, when she was in her 26th week of the pregnancy, Lisa Lindstrom notified her doctors that she had a 102-degree fever and that she felt that she had a urinary tract infection.
According to the suit, Sih returned her call and advised her to take Tylenol and drink fluids, and that she should call back two hours later.
Although her temperature decreased to 101 by 7:30 p.m., Lindstrom told the doctors at Abington Obstetrics & Gynecology that she was still suffering chills and shakes.
At 11 p.m., the suit said, Lindstrom's temperature "soared" to 104 degrees and she began feeling contractions. When doctors failed to return her call, Lindstrom's husband took her to the emergency room, according to the suit.
The suit said emergency room doctors used muscle relaxants to stop the labor.
At about 7 a.m. on Nov. 3, Smith, an obstetrician took over Lindstrom's care and continued to treat her with muscle relaxants.
On the afternoon of Nov. 4, 1995, nearly two days after her first telephone call about her fever, the twins were delivered by Caesarian section. Samantha weighed one pound, nine ounces, and Alec weigh one pound, 15 ounces.
Both babies spent considerable time in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit and suffered serious neurological damage, according to the suit.
In an expert report, Dr. Steven A. Klein of Old Westbury, N.Y., faulted both Smith and Sih for failing to diagnose and treat Lindstrom's infection. Klein said in his report that if Smith had performed amniocentesis, the infection could have been detected. Allowing the fetuses to remain in a highly infected uterus, he said, "increased the likelihood of cerebral palsy."
In another expert report, Dr. Yitzchak Frank, a pediatric neurologist at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center in New York, said he believed that Lisa Lindstrom's untreated infection had caused extensive brain damage to both babies that resulted in cerebral palsy, mental retardation, speech and language abnormalities, and behavioral problems.
Frank said in his report that neither of the twins will ever be able to live independently, and that both will require special education and continuing treatment from a variety of specialists.
Smith's lawyer, Louis A. Rieffel of Plakins Rieffel & Ray in Doylestown, Pa., could not be reached for comment on the verdict. Rieffel had also defended Sih at trial.
Abington Memorial Hospital, which was exonerated in the verdict, was represented at trial by attorney Gary M. Samms of Obermayer Rebbmann Maxwell & Hippell. Samms was also not immediately available for comment Thursday.