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Federal Government Must Pay $41.6M for Negligent Forceps Delivery

A Pennsylvania judge recently entered a $41.6 million verdict against the federal government after an obstetrician employed by a federally-funded health clinic negligently used forceps to deliver a baby. The baby suffered severe permanent brain damage as a result.

The lawsuit claimed that the obstetrician applied excessive force and traction and misapplied the forceps on the baby’s skull while performing a mid-forceps delivery, causing catastrophic neurological injury to the baby. One expert testified at trial that mid-level forceps deliveries are indicated only in severe, life-threatening emergencies. Another noted that the use of forceps caused multiple skull fractures, bleeding in the brain and destruction to the cerebellum and brain stem.

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the sovereign immunity that generally attaches to prevent lawsuits against the United States government is waived for medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical malpractice claims against the government arising from negligence in government-funded hospitals generally follow the medical malpractice rules of the state where the injury occurred but the FTCA may affect such a claim. The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits against the federal government occur when an employee of a federally-funded hospital negligently injures a patient while providing medical care. Some physicians working at federal hospitals are considered employees of the federal government while others are independent contractors, who are not subject to the requirements of the FTCA. As to damages, any state law damages caps on medical malpractice cases also apply to a claim under the FTCA. Punitive damages against the federal government are not allowed.

Importantly, claims brought under the FTCA have different notice requirements and a different statute of limitations. Before suing the federal government in court, a plaintiff is required to send a notice of claim with a description of his or her case to the federal agency involved. A plaintiff has two years from the time he or she discovers the injury — or had reasonable opportunity to discover the injury — to give such notice to the agency. The agency has six months to respond. The plaintiff then has six months to sue the agency in court. Adhering to the different procedural requirements of the FTCA is crucial. Failing to do so could result in the dismissal of the complaint.

COPYRIGHT © 2020, STARK & STARKNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 117


About this Author

Jeff Krawitz, Casualty Litigator, Stark and Stark Law firm

Jeff Krawitz is a Shareholder and member of Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury Group and concentrates his practice in casualty litigation focusing on complex injury, coverage issues and bad faith claims. He also has, and continues to, litigate claims arising from motor vehicle and transportation accidents, many of which involve catastrophic damages. His practice also includes the representation of litigants in professional liability claims including those involving medical negligence. Mr. Krawitz has extensive experience in both state and federal courts...

Michael C. Ksiazek, Personal Injury Attorney, Stark Law Firm

Michael C. Ksiazek is a Shareholder and member Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury Group in the Yardley, Pennsylvania office. Mr. Ksiazek concentrates his practice on catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims, including those caused by medical malpractice, nursing home neglect and abuse, premises liability, motor vehicle accidents and construction site accidents.

Prior to joining Stark & Stark, Mr. Ksiazek practiced with law firms in Philadelphia and Boston, including a Philadelphia firm where his practice focused on the defense of medical negligence and casualty claims. This extensive experience defending serious injury claims gives Mr. Ksiazek unique knowledge and insight that greatly benefits his clients.