Baby Death Settlement to be Secret
Joseph A. Quinn, Jr.
>The Times Leader - Wilkes-Barre, PA
Aug. 11, 1999
Baby Death Settlement to be Secret
The Schukrafts have been awarded $6.7 million by jury in the death of their newborn. Tuesday deal concerns punitive damages.
Wyoming Valley Health Care System on Tuesday reached a settlement of punitive damages with the parents of a newborn who died because of the negligence of the medical staff at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital.
The amount of the settlement with Heidi and Scott Schukraft, Sr. was not revealed at the insistence of the health care system and insurance companies involved in the case, said Joseph Quinn, the couple's attorney.
The settlement is in addition to a $6.7 million verdict the couple won after a two-week medical malpractice trial that ended July 22. A jury found Dr. Mark Polin and other employees of the healthcare system were negligent for failing to react to a heart monitor that showed the Schukrafts' son, Scott, Jr., was being deprived of oxygen in the womb. The infant died shortly after birth Jan. 9, 1997.
The settlement was reached after a four-hour hearing with Joseph Musto, the special trial master who presided over the trial in Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. Quinn had requested Musto's intervention after more than two weeks of negotiations failed to produce a settlement.
Quinn said the Schukraft's were "very satisfied" with the settlement. He said he wanted to reveal the amount, but he could not get the healthcare system to agree.
The Schukrafts were eligible for punitive damages because jurors found Polin and other hospital employees, including several nurses, acted with "reckless indifference" in their treatment of Baby Schukraft.
Polin admitted he was sleeping and failed to review fetal heart tracings that showed the infant was in danger. The doctor had claimed nurses failed to notify him that tracings showed there was a problem.
Quinn said the Schukrafts were relieved a settlement was reached, avoiding the need for a separate hearing at which a jury would have determined the amount of punitive damages.
"This allows us to conclude this, finally. There will be no further delays or appeals." Quinn said.
Joann Quiagliam, a spokeswoman for the healthcare system, confirmed a settlement had been reached and the terms would remain confidential.
The only other part of the Quiagliam's prepared statement contradicted media reports that a large settlement could negatively affect the healthcare system.
"Any speculation regarding any facilities or departments closing or any interruption of services previously reported by the media are completely erroneous," she said Tuesday night. "Everything will remain the same."
PLEASE NOTE: Every case is fact specific, and these results do not guaranty the same results will be obtained in a different case.
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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.
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