Jury Awards $18M in Kentucky Birth Injury Lawsuit

November 26, 2014

On Tuesday evening, a Barren County, Kentucky jury awarded close to $18.3 million to the family of a baby born with severe brain damage. The infant’s brain damage stems from a birth injury that occurred at the T.J. Samson Community Hospital.

According to reports, the infant, Tristan Hamilton, was born at T.J. Samson Samson in 2007, to mother Brittney Hamilton. Tristan was diagnosed with several health problems shortly after birth, including spastic quadriplegia and a brain injury.

Pitocen Errors

Court documents indicate that Brittney was given a high dosage of Pitocen during delivery, yet the hospital staff failed to monitor the infant’s distress signals afterwards. Pitocen is a medication commonly used to induce labor during prolonged and/or difficult deliveries. However, improper communication and medical negligence between the medical staff  led to Tristan experiencing oxygen deprivation, which in turn resulted in birth injuries.

The nurses who monitored Brittney stated that obstetrician-gynecologist, Dr. Kelly Dirig, told them to keep increasing the levels of Pitocen during delivery. Dirig vehemently denies the allegation. Nevertheless, since Dirig was not employed by  the hospital, she was cleared from the lawsuit. Although she’s not an employee of T.J. Samson, she helped during the delivery because of her medical privileges at the hospital. 

The Jury Finds the Hospital Negligent

After deliberations this week, 10 of the 12 jurors ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that it was the hospital’s responsibility “to exercise the degree of care and skill ordinarily expected of reasonably competent and prudent hospitals under similar circumstances.” The majority of the jury agreed that the hospital failed to provide the required care to the plaintiff and that “was a substantial factor in causing Tristan Hamilton’s injuries.”

The plaintiff was awarded  $18,270,052.37, which includes:

  • Prescription medication expenses: $462,917.37
  • Estimated life expectancy of 75 years for Tristan: $9,000,797
  • Impairment that will lead to lack of earning potential: $1,505,940
  • Past mental anguish: $2,800,000
  • Future mental anguish: $4,500,398

Comments After the Verdict

“The jury did a really good job getting their hands around some very complex medical issues, but I think it really boiled down to a pretty simple issue, and that was the nurses are the eyes and ears of the doctors at that hospital and if there are abnormal findings, they need to follow doctor’s orders and need to report abnormal findings, and I think the jury concluded they didn’t do either thing,” said the plaintiff’s attorney. 

“I don’t want to be too hard on these nurses because they were not properly trained by the hospital for the position they were in. We spent a lot of time talking about the hospital’s obligations that the nurses were properly trained,” he continued. 

Shortly after the verdict, the hospital’s attorney released a statement, indicating the the case and details surrounding will not be blown off and the hospital has taken the results seriously.

“TJ Samson has been committed to providing the best healthcare possible to our community since 1929. We take the concerns presented in this case very seriously and our hearts go out to Tristan and his family,” the statement read. “The high quality of care we provide to our patients every day is the result of a continuing commitment of our dedicated caregivers and physicians. Such care is evident from the more than 1,200 babies that TJ Samson proudly delivered last year alone.”

The Hamilton family originally sought $24 million. They are happy, however, with the verdict.

“(Tristan) was injured just about as badly as a child could be,” Hamilton’s attorney said. “The amount reflected the extent of the injury.”