Mass. Jury Awards $24 Million in Childbirth Lawsuit

May 12, 2005

In one of the largest malpractice verdicts in state history, a jury has awarded $23.8 million to the parents of a girl born with cerebral palsy after a traumatic delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Suffolk County jury deliberated for less than four hours before finding two obstetricians, Mary Ames Castro and Alessandra Peccei, negligent in the 1996 delivery of Julia McLaughlin, The Boston Globe reported.

McLaughlin was born with large bruises on her head and bleeding on the tissue around her brain. Lawyers for her parents argued that the two doctors neglected Maria Lynn McLaughlin as she struggled through more than 17 hours of labor and failed to recognize that the baby’s head was tipped so it couldn’t fit through the pelvis.

The doctors also did not tell the parents of the risks of brain damage before using a vacuum extractor to pull the baby out, family attorney Andrew C. Meyer Jr. said.

“They weren’t paying close enough attention to this patient, and they didn’t take the time to discuss the situation and warn the parents,” he said.

Lawyers for Mass. General argued that the baby’s disabilities were unrelated to complications at her birth.

“Despite the best efforts of providers … complications sometimes can arise during a pregnancy, and tragically, not all outcomes are perfect,” the hospital said in a statement. “In this case, the physicians worked very hard to manage what was an extraordinarily complex and difficult situation.”

George E. Wakeman Jr., an attorney for the hospital, said he would appeal and added that the jury acted hastily. He said the doctors did nothing wrong and kept the parents informed about their care throughout the birth.

The verdict includes $12.9 million in damages and $10.9 million in interest since the lawsuit was filed in 1998. It appears to be the third largest malpractice award in state history. The top verdict was $30 million awarded a Randolph mother and her paralyzed child in 1992.

Julia McLaughlin attends second grade, but requires an aide at all times and is often pulled from class for special instruction and therapy. She can walk with braces, but needs a stroller for longer distances.

Maria Lynn McLaughlin, who lives in Lexington, said the verdict wouldn’t change her life.

“It takes the financial burden off with Julia that she is going to be taken care of,” she said. “That’s what we needed.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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