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Record $24,100,00 Verdict – Birth Trauma – Cerebral Palsy (Seminole County, FL)

What is the reason for many catastrophic medical mistakes?  Just like with airplane crashes and other major disasters, usually there are several errors that come together to create an environment ripe for catastrophe.  Such was the case for a young woman who was delivering her second baby at a major Orlando hospital, Florida Hospital Altamonte.

The multiple medical mistakes by Dr. Michael Geiling resulted in the most catastrophic birth injury to Raven Shoaf. It’s a story that is almost too incredible to believe.

Before delivery, Sandra Shoaf had been diagnosed as having a small pelvis.  In fact, her first baby had been born by cesarean section (surgically) because of cephalopelvic disproportion (baby’s head too large for pelvis or birth canal).  Now she was pregnant but her new obstetrician decided that she should deliver the baby vaginally through a technique known as VBAC: vaginal birth after cesarean section.  The problem with this controversial method is that if there is a long labor or any complication, the original surgical scar from the c-section can open, causing a catastrophic series of events that can injure or kill the baby and mother.

This young obstetrician induced labor in Mrs. Shoaf for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean section). The induction lasted for more  than a day.  While in labor, the baby became stuck in the birth canal.  Dr. Geiling ignored the suggestions of the experienced labor and delivery nurses to perform a cesarean section, which could be done in minutes,  Instead he insisted on continuing.  He used a vacuum extractor for as long as 45 minutes (much longer than the time such a device should be placed on a fetus) and then instructed the nurses to perform fundal pressure, another prohibited technique where pressure is placed on the top of the uterus to “push” the baby down and out.

During this time the fetal monitor strips demonstrated that the baby was in distress, another sign that an emergency c-section should be performed.  Dr. Geiling ignored that.  He kept going and disaster ensued.

The woman’s uterus ruptured, causing hypoxia (complete loss of oxygen) to the child, and nearly killed Mrs. Shoaf.  The baby was resuscitated, but not before she suffered irreversible cerebral palsy from the lack of oxygen.  The cerebral palsy left her unable to walk or talk or use her arms in any meaningful way.  Yet she was able to understand, and smile, and had normal intellect.

Dr. Geiling refused to take responsibility, always insisting that he acted appropriately.

Through a litigation that lasted 8 years, John Elliott Leighton represented the Shoaf family and young Raven Shoaf.  Mr. Leighton obtained the largest jury verdict in Seminole County history, a $24,100,000 award for this amazing girl and her parents. Shoaf v. Geiling, Seminole County Circuit Court, Case No.2000-CA-201-09-K (Orlando Business Journal, 6/20/2005).

Dr. Geiling later left Florida and moved to California.

Click here to read Orlando Sentinel article on this record-setting verdict

Click here to read a commentary about this trial by Lawyers & Settlements

Lawyers Weekly article on Shoaf v. Geiling

 

Disclaimer: The information about past verdicts and settlements of the firm’s cases are based on the unique facts of each case. These amounts reflect the gross recovery in each case (before attorneys fees, expenses and medical costs are deducted). Although these results were obtained by our firm, they may not indicate the success or value of any other case. By clicking on Verdicts and Settlements you are acknowledging that each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The information contained here has not been reviewed or approved by The Florida Bar.

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