Five years ago Christina Lane’s water broke and she was brought into the Keystone Women’s Health Center in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania ready to deliver her baby boy. Early tests showed that the baby was healthy and there were no expectations of complications. But during the delivery at the federally subsidized clinic the alleged negligence of Dr. Thomas Orndorf, the attending OB/GYN, changed the lives of Christina Lane’s family forever. After a six-day bench trial, U.S. District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo awarded the baby and his family $42 million, to be paid by the federal government, in a malpractice lawsuit brought by Lane and Nathan Armolt, the child’s father.
According to court documents there was nothing abnormal about the delivery until, after just one push, Dr. Orndorf made a tragic error by using forceps prematurely. Lawyers representing Lane and Armolt claimed that Orndorf first applied the forceps to the infant’s head and pulled once. He then stopped using the aid to extract the baby, but after a few moments he reapplied them and forcefully pulled the baby’s head three more times. He did so even though it was too early in the delivery to use forceps and despite the fact that Lane and the baby’s vitals were normal.
Hours after the baby was delivered it was determined that Lane’s child was suffering from severe intracranial bleeding and skull fractures. Court documents said that the baby had observable markings across his face from the forceps and that Orndorf was “straining, red-faced and sweaty” while delivering the baby. During the trial Orndorf admitted using the forceps and acknowledged that in doing so he increased the risk of injury to both mother and child.
Christina Lane told reporters that she is “happy with the verdict and that the case is finally over.” She went on to say that the family can now “focus on our son” and ensure that “he receives the best care available.”
The injury sustained during delivery caused permanent brain damage and the child, now five-years-old, cannot speak, express himself, and will not be able to read or write. In addition, it is believed that the child will be forced to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life and will potentially need to be institutionalized. The $42 million judgement is believed to be the largest award in the history of Pennsylvania’s Middle District. More than $33 million was set aside for future and past medical expenses, $5 million for pain and suffering, and more than $3.5 million for the loss of future earning and benefits.
“Judge Rambo appropriately held the government and Dr. Orndorf responsible for the catastrophic injuries caused to this little boy,” said the family’s attorney. “The court recognized the severity of (the child’s) injuries and awarded what plaintiffs argued was necessary to care for him throughout his lifetime.”