Jefferson Healthcare hit with $24M verdict; plans to appeal

Leader news staff
Posted 1/8/20

A Kitsap County jury ruled in favor of a Port Hadlock family whose daughter has permanent brain injury after suffocating during labor and delivery at Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center in 2014.

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Jefferson Healthcare hit with $24M verdict; plans to appeal


A Kitsap County jury ruled in favor of a Port Hadlock family whose daughter has permanent brain injury after suffocating during labor and delivery at Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center in 2014.

The verdict and $23.9 million award against Jefferson County Public Hospital District was handed down Dec. 20, 2019 in Kitsap County Superior Court. Moving a trial to another county is an option available when judges are convinced there is a risk that local jurors have connections or experiences that could affect their impartiality toward local plaintiffs or defendants.

Jefferson Healthcare says it will appeal a jury’s $23.9 million verdict.

Anna Scott and Zachary Burke said doctors and nurses missed “several critical signs” that their baby was in distress during delivery, with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, depriving her of oxygen.

Scott and Burke argued that medical providers used a fetal heart monitor during delivery, but failed to realize that it was picking up the mother’s heartbeat, not the baby’s, misleading doctors into thinking the baby was fine.

“Lana was essentially strangled by her own umbilical cord and Jefferson Healthcare medical providers did nothing to intervene,” said Robert Gellatly of Luvera Law Firm, the attorney representing Scott and Burke. “The medical team’s actions – or inactions – deprived her of oxygen, leaving Lana profoundly brain injured.”

The baby needed extensive resuscitation to begin breathing on her own, and suffers permanent brain damage that will limit her mental and physical capabilities for the rest of her life, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit argues that Jefferson Healthcare did not have protocols in place to prevent maternal and fetal heart rate confusion.

But Jefferson Healthcare plans to appeal the jury’s decision, according to a statement from the hospital.

“We have a long-established track record of successfully delivering more than 100 babies each year and for being the community’s sole provider of comprehensive obstetrics services,” the statement reads.

The claim states that healthcare providers only took Scott’s heart rate one time in nearly four hours – and then, even though it perfectly matched the heart tracing, they failed to confirm possible confusion or take action to help the baby.

But Jefferson Healthcare argues that the procedures in place were all following during this delivery.

“We hold our labor and delivery staff and care to the highest possible standards, and we remain confident in their capabilities, and in the procedures and processes that were followed during this particular delivery,” the hospitals’ statement reads. “Our hospital has had a very safe track record and we have worked extremely hard over the past decade to make this one of the best hospitals in the region.”

A brain MRI in the complaint documents showed the baby, Lana, was born with cell death and brain damage due to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. The MRI scan was taken six days after birth, after the baby was transferred to Tacoma General Hospital.

Scott and Burke contend the brain damage occurred during the labor and delivery process, but Jefferson Healthcare contends either that this was not a brain damage injury or that if it was, it occurred one to three days before labor began.

“There were many opportunities to see that Lana was in trouble, but the medical team missed every one of them,” Scott said. “Now Lana will have to live with the consequences of the Jefferson Healthcare providers’ poor decisions for the rest of her life.”

The jury agreed with Scott and Burke, but the statement from Jefferson Healthcare says it strongly disagrees with the verdict.

“Our hearts go out to the Burke family as the path toward healing and long-term medical stability for a child with any physical or developmental condition can be both emotionally and financially stressful. With that said, we disagree strongly with the verdict issued in this case and will be filing an appeal.”


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