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Brain-damaged baby's family awarded millions

A Massachusetts jury awarded a family $40 million in damages after finding a doctor negligent in the delivery of brain-damaged baby, the largest such award in state history, the family’s lawyers said.
/ Source: Reuters

A Massachusetts jury awarded a family $40 million in damages after finding a doctor negligent in the delivery of brain-damaged baby, the largest such award in state history, the family’s lawyers said Thursday.

Dr. Jacqueline Halladay was found negligent Wednesday for waiting over five hours to deliver Philip Antonelli Jr. in a Caesarean section despite tests showing fetal distress.

The boy, now 8, has cerebral palsy and functions at the level of a 2- to 4-year-old. His speech is garbled and he needs help with dressing, bathing and other basic tasks.

“This is a child that, statistically, is going to live another 70 years in a devastated situation,” the family’s lawyer, Robert Higgins, told Reuters. “The jury recognizes this very severe injury.”

Lisa Antonelli, now 41, was 38 weeks pregnant, or at full term, when she checked into Saints Memorial Medical Center in Lowell, Mass., at around 9 p.m. on Nov. 7, 1996. She was not in labor but concerned that her fetus was not moving.

Halladay, then three months into her first job as a doctor, performed two tests and found the fetus in distress, but waited to order an emergency C-section, Higgins said.

Halladay maintained she had done nothing wrong and could not have prevented the injuries. Her lawyer was not immediately available to comment.

The baby suffered a seizure 20 minutes after birth and was treated for bleeding in his brain.

The award tops $30 million awarded in 1992 for a brain-damaged child in Massachusetts. The Antonellis will not receive the full amount, as lawyers agreed Halladay would be liable only for the undisclosed maximum amount covered by her malpractice insurance.