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Judge awards more than $41 million in birth injury case

Maryland patients who have been harmed by negligence at a federally-funded medical facility may sue the federal government despite a general prohibition against most such actions. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, there is an exception for cases of medical malpractice.

In Pennsylvania, a judge agreed that the federal government was liable in a case involving a baby who suffered serious brain damage as a result of a doctor using forceps. According to the lawsuit, the mid-forceps delivery was performed with excessive force. The forceps were also misapplied. One expert testified during the trial that mid-forceps delivery should only be used in extreme emergencies while another testified that bleeding in the brain, skull fractures and damage to the cerebellum and brain stem could all result from the use of forceps. The judge ordered that the government pay $41.6 million.

When suing the federal government under the FTCA, there are several strict procedural requirements, and overlooking these could lead to the case's dismissal. It is necessary to send a notice of claim to the applicable agency within two years of discovering the injury. The agency has six months to respond, and the plaintiff then has six months in which to file the lawsuit. It is not possible to get punitive damages when suing the federal government.

Birth injuries, including shoulder dystocia and brain trauma, might be the result of a number of different actions besides misuse of a tool like forceps. If labor is not monitored closely enough, a medical professional might not notice that a mother or child is in distress. An injury might occur because a physician does not adequately address a medical issue with a mother or child during the prenatal stage.

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