Family awarded $893,684 in Mercy suit

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Ted Sullivan
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
— A former Janesville family was awarded nearly $900,000 in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Janesville's Mercy Hospital and two doctors.

Justin and Kara Rutherford sued Mercy Health System, Mercy Women's Health Center, Mercy Clinic West and two former doctors, Richard Kochell and John Patterson.

The Rutherfords filed the lawsuit in August 2004 after the January 2001 birth of their son, Jared, who now is 8.

The family accused the doctors and hospital of negligence in the handling of Kara's labor and delivery, which caused a permanent shoulder injury to Jared.

A Rock County jury awarded the family $893,684 after the seven-day trial in Rock County Court in front of Judge Daniel Dillon. The trial ended Tuesday, Oct. 20.

"The Rutherfords were pleased that the jury system worked," said Stephen Phillips, the Rutherfords Chicago-based attorney.

The Rutherfords were awarded:

-- $228,084.88 for past medical and health care expenses.

-- $255,600 for future medical and health care expenses.

-- $110,000 for future loss of earning capacity.

-- $300,000 for past and future pain, suffering, disability and disfigurement.

According to court records:

Kochell and Patterson were Kara's doctors, and they should have known Jared would likely weigh more than 10 pounds at delivery.

When Jared was delivered, his shoulder got stuck behind his mother's pubic bone after his head was delivered. It prevented his body from easily following the head during delivery.

The complication caused an injury to the nerves in Jared's shoulder. The injury occurred when his nerves were stretched.

Jared suffered permanent injuries, pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of normal life and medical expenses as a result of his delivery.

He has limited strength, dexterity and motion in his shoulder.

The hospital and doctors denied the allegations in the lawsuit, claiming any injuries occurred because of natural labor. Kochell, who has died, and Patterson, who has retired, no longer work for Mercy.

The lawsuit alleged the doctors and hospital:

-- Failed to determine whether a vaginal delivery was safe.

-- Failed to perform appropriate tests.

-- Failed to perform delivery techniques to diminish the risk of injury to the baby.

-- Failed to appropriately dislodge the child's shoulder when it got stuck.

-- Pulled, twisted and maneuvered the baby during delivery.

-- Failed to inform the parents the delivery could be hazardous to the baby.

-- Failed to offer Kara a delivery by cesarean section.

-- Failed to properly supervise the baby.

-- Failed to advise the parents of the risks of vaginal delivery in light of the child's size.

The Gazette was not able to reach the attorney for the defendants for comment or the Rutherfords for comment.

Last updated: 11:38 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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