Chambersburg family to get $42 million after doctor causes birth injury

Written by Staff Reporter/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Apr 21, 2017 10:19 AM

Photo by AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

(Harrisburg) -- A federal judge has handed down a nearly $42 million verdict against the federal government for a Chambersburg child who suffered a forceps injury at birth in 2012 that resulted in severe brain damage, according to a news release from Kline & Specter, PC, the office of the family's attorney.

Keystone Women's Health Center and Dr. Thomas Orndorf were implicated in the case.

Orndorf is currently listed on the staff page of Keystone's website.

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."

The news release reads, in full:

A federal judge today handed down a nearly $42 million verdict against the federal government for a child who suffered a forceps injury at birth that resulted in severe brain damage. The award by U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo was believed to be the largest-ever for a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania's Middle District.

The decision followed a six-day bench trial last September in which Christina Late  and Nathan Armolt, of Chambersburg, parents of the child, identified only as D.A., sued the United States government over the actions of a doctor it employed at Keystone Women's Health Center, a federally supported facility.

D.A., 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.

"Judge 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.

The incident occurred on Feb. 21, 2012 at Chambersburg Hospital as Late began to deliver. All signs were normal for mother and baby. At 7:39 a.m., after only one push, her obstetrician, Dr. Thomas Orndorf, began to use forceps. He pulled once, then forcefully 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.

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

Orndorf admitted this was a mid-level forceps delivery. 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.

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.



This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

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