On January 25, 2014, Anna Scott and Zachary Burke arrived at Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend, Washington to experience what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of their lives- the birth of their baby girl.
However, the events and medical errors that ensued at Jefferson Healthcare throughout the next 24 hours would leave Anna and Zachary emotionally scarred and Lana, their new baby, with permanent brain damage.
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Anna and Zachary claimed that doctors and nurses at Jefferson failed to recognize critical signs with electronic heartbeat monitoring technology that showed the baby was in distress.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Fetal heart rate monitoring is the process of checking the condition of your fetus during labor and delivery by monitoring your fetus’s heart rate with special equipment.” Such monitoring may help detect changes in the normal heart rate pattern and determine whether further action needs to be taken to treat a problem if one arises.
The claim recognized that the medical professionals at Jefferson used a fetal heart monitor during delivery, but failed to realize it was picking up the mother’s heartbeat instead of the baby’s for over three hours.
This failure led to the medical team’s assumption that the baby was in a healthy state when in reality, she was in severe distress.
Permanent Brain Injury As a Result of Medical Error
Before delivery, Lana, the couple’s daughter, had the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck, depriving her of oxygen. She was born blue and needing extensive resuscitation just to be able to breathe on her own.
Although there were plenty of opportunities for the medical team to recognize critical issues, Lana suffers permanent brain damage that will limit her mental and physical capabilities for the rest of her life.
One way the damage could have been avoided, according to medical experts, was if medical staff would have taken the mother’s heart rate separately and compared it to the fetal strip throughout her labor. If they would have followed this simple step, the medical professionals on staff would have realized that the heart rates were identical, confirming possible confusion and distress.
Robert Gellatly, one of the lawyers representing the family, claimed the damage could have been avoided if she had been delivered hours earlier by Cesarean section upon realizing the distress.
The claim was originally filed in October 2016 but did not go to trial until November 4, 2019, concluding on December 20, 2019.
The trial went on for seven weeks in front of a 12-member jury in Washington before rendering a verdict of guilty to find Jefferson Healthcare negligent in their duties, leading to severe, permanent injury to the child.
According to court documents, the jury awarded a total of $23.9 million to the family, broken down as:
- $10 million in necessary non-medical expenses
- $6.25 million for non-economic damages
- $2 million for medical care, treatment, and services
- $1 million for lost earnings and earnings capacity
- $2.3 million to Anna Scott
- $2.3 million to Zachary Burke
Anna explained that she wanted other families to know about the hardships they’ve experienced with the hope of preventing it from happening to others. “Lana is such a blessing in our lives and has the most beautiful smile and heart, but she will need care for the rest of her life”, Anna explained, “this verdict ensures she has a financial safety net to sustain her for decades to come”.
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