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Personal Injury Verdicts & Awards

Jury Awards $10.3M in Death of Baby

Citizens' Voice - Wilkes-Barre, PA

Jury Awards $10.3M in Death of Baby

By Tim Gulla
Staff Writer

A jury of seven men and five women unanimously awarded a West Pittston couple a total of $10.3 million Monday night for the loss of their infant daughter.

But the panel, despite hearing more than two weeks of testimony, has not yet completed its task.

Because the jury found that the actions of the former Penn State Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center and an area obstetrician on Feb.21, 1998, constituted reckless indifference to the safety and well being of the infant child, the panel will be brought back at a later date to determine if punitive damages are warranted.

Joan and Bill Godlewski, represented by Attorney Joseph Quinn Jr., filed suit in 1998 after their 8-month-old daughter died from injures she sustained during her delivery on Feb. 21, 1998.

Joan Godlewski went into the Plains Township hospital that day to deliver twins. Her first child, Jarod, was born normally. However, baby Gina was not born after suffering from about 22 minutes of oxygen deprivation, according to court testimony.

Quinn, through expert testimony, argued that Gina could have been spared from irreparable brain damage. He alleged the baby would be alive today if Dr. George Valenta, who attended to Joan Godlewski, had initially granted Joan's requests for a Cesarean Section, if he had responded more quickly to the first signs of fetal distress, or if the delivery rooms at the Plains Township hospital had been equipped fer Emergency C-sections.

When Dr. Valenta made the call to deliver Gina by C-section about three minutes after the fetal distress was evident, Joan Godlewski had to be transported to an operating room in a different building.

Quinn alleged there were additional delays because the doors to the operating rooms were locked and because the operating room team was not present in the hospital. Quinn alleged the doctor and hospital should have been prepared for the worst by delivering the twins in an operating room equipped for emergency response.

In addition, Quinn alleged Dr. Valenta violated the standard of care by failing to inform Joan Godlewski that baby Gina had changed position prior to birth, from a normal head down to a transverse or sideways position, and that there was an increased likelihood for a C-section.

He further alleged the child's fetal distress began after Dr. Valenta attempted to rotate the baby inside Joan's womb - a procedure he alleged should not have been performed in a delivery room not equipped for emergency response.

The jury found that Dr. Valenta was negligent and that his negligence was a substantial factor in causing Gina Godlewski's injuries.

The jury found that Dr. Robert Roe, who was chairman of the hospital's OB/GYN department in 1998, was negligent but that his negligence wasn't a substantial factor in causing the injuries.

The jury found that the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center and the Geisinger Clinic were negligent and that their negligence was a substantial factor in causing Gina's injuries.

The jury assigned 60 percent of the combined total negligence to Dr. Valenta, 0 percent of the negligence to Dr. Roe, 20 percent of the negligence to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, and 20 percent of the negligence to Geisinger Clinic.

The panel also found that the conduct of the hospital, through its employees Dr. Valenta and/or Dr. Roe, and the conduct of the clinic through its employees, constituted reckless indifference, a finding that opened up the door to punitive damages.

The Godlewski family was awarded a total of $2,884,000 under the wrongful death action, which included. $2.5 million for the past, present and future loss of Gina Godlewski's aid, society and comfort. The wrongful death award also included $384,000 for funeral and medical expenses.

The family also was awarded $1.5 million for the loss of Gina's potential earnings capacity and $2 million for the pain and suffering the young child endured.

Bill Godlewski was awarded a total of $1.5 million for past present and future emotional distress.

Joan Godlewski was awarded a total of $2 million for her emotional distress.

Since the case is still ongoing, Quinn and the Godlewski's said they had to decline comment after Monday's verdict.

In a prepared statement, officials from Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center said, "We continue to believe the care provided in this case by Doctor George Valenta, Dr. Robert Roe and the staff at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center was appropriate.

"We respectfully disagree with the jury's verdict."

"Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Godlewski family on the loss of their baby in 1998. Our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals not only in obstetrics, but throughout the medical center, are saddened by the loss of any patient. This is especially true in the loss of a child."

Neither Dr. Valenta nor the hospital's lead defense attorney was present when the jury announced its verdict.

PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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