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Personal Injury Verdicts & Awards

Settlement Reached on Punitive Damages

The Citizens' Voice - Wilkes-Barre, PA
Aug. 11, 1999

By Tim Gulla

An out-of-court settlement on a Dallas couple's request for punitive damages from an area hospital system and obstetrician was reached Tuesday afternoon in Luzerne County Court.

Attorneys representing Wyoming Valley Health Care System, Dr. Mark Polin, and the Schukraft Family met privately Tuesday with Special Trial Master Joseph Musto. Following several hours of talks, Attorney Joseph Quinn, who represented the Schukraft family, confirmed that a settlement has been reached.

"The case is now settled. The case is resolved," he said.

He was unable to divulge any additional information, however, since confidentiality was part of the agreement.

Quinn could only say: "I'm very pleased with the resolution of the case. I'm very pleased, and my clients are very pleased."

WVHCS provided a similar limited comment last night, saying, "A settlement has been reached for an undisclosed amount. All parties have agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Any speculation or news reports regarding any facilities or departments closing or any interruption of services are completely erroneous."

On July 22, a jury awarded Heidi and Scott Schukraft $6.7 million in compensatory damages for the Jan. 9, 1997, death of their infant son, Scott Jr. In handing up its decision, the jury determined that the hospital system was 70-percent negligent in the infant's death and that Dr. Polin was 30-percent negligent.

The panel further determined that the care provided to Mrs. Schukraft and her unborn child went beyond ordinary negligence, and instead constituted reckless indifference. This finding allowed the Schukrafts to seek punitive damages, which are meant to punish.

But rather than have the same jury deliberate any further, all parties involved in the case agreed to enter out-of-court discussions to resolve the issue.

Scott Jr. died on Jan. 9, 1997, moments after he was born in a state of fetal distress. Attorney Quinn argued on behalf of the Schukrafts that the infant would have survived if hospital nurses, or Dr. Polin, had responded to clear signs of fetal distress on a fetal heart rate monitor by stopping the administration of a labor-inducing drug, Pitocin, to Mrs. Schukraft.

It was alleged at trail that during a critical time-period in Mrs. Schukraft's labor, when the baby was exhibiting clear signs of distress, Dr. Polin fell asleep in a doctor's lounge.

Although he admitted his own responsibility, Polin claimed he was never advised by nursing staff of his patient's condition. He said he spontaneously awoke from his unintentional slumber only minutes before the child was born.

One nurse claimed that Polin was not asleep during this time period. Another nurse, who was at Mrs. Schukraft's side, said she relied upon Polin's and her supervisor's interpretations of the fetal heart rate monitor in allowing administration of the Pitocin to continue.

Attorney Patrick Carey represented Wyoming Valley Health Care System in the dispute. Attorney Daniel Ryan represented Polin.

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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