A Jackson County jury awarded $25.4 million in a medical malpractice judgment against a Kansas City doctor in a case where a baby suffered permanent brain damage due to a lack of oxygen at birth, according to a news release from the attorneys of the child’s family.
The verdict is the largest awarded in a medical negligence case in the Kansas City area, said Sarah Schmidtlein, owner of Greater Kansas City Jury Verdict Service in the release.
The judgment against the doctor, however, was reduced to about $20.7 million in part due to a Missouri law that caps non-economic damages, according to court documents.
Rachel Harris of Independence filed the initial lawsuit on behalf of her daughter Kylie Harris in 2018 against Dr. Kelly Sandri, Truman Medical Center and University Health Physicians. The injured child and her family were represented by Joe Cullan, Pat Cullan and Ryan Terril of the law firm of Cullan an Cullan.
A judge in June 2020 approved a confidential settlement between Harris and Truman Medical Center and University Health Physicians. The settlement agreement didn’t include claims against Sandri.
The trial in the medical malpractice case against Sandi began March 21. Jury deliberations began on March 30 and a verdict was returned the same day, according to court documents.
The jury found that Sandri violated her duty of care and improperly supervised a student doctor with respect to the administration of medication used to speed up labor, according to a news release from the law firm.
There was an overdose of Pitocin which resulted in a loss of oxygen to the baby’s brain causing cerebral palsy.
“Great care must be taken with the use of Pitocin,” Patrick Cullan, a physician-attorney, said in the release. “If used correctly Pitocin can be safe, but the health care team must watch carefully for signs of overdose.”
The fetal motoring equipment in this case showed more than six hours of excess Pitocin administration, which neither Sandri nor the student doctor recognized, according to the attorneys.
“The attending physician delegated the responsibility to the doctor in training, rather than personally attending to the patient as often as required by the standard of care,” said Joe Cullan, physician-attorney.
“Hopefully, this verdict will send a message to teaching hospitals that the doctor who is responsible for the patient’s care must be actively involved. You cannot teach or supervise a young doctor from a nursing station or doctor’s lounge.”
The child will need round-the-clock care for the rest of her life, the attorneys said. In the last four years, Harris has taken her daughter to 184 physician and therapy visits.