Tripler Army Medical Center settles $11 million lawsuit

Published: Sep. 21, 2010 at 10:41 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2010 at 4:26 AM HST
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Michael Livingston
Michael Livingston
Kayla McCraw
Kayla McCraw

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Tripler Army Medical Center has settled a multi-million dollar malpractice lawsuit out of court. The suit involved a newborn baby who's now four years old and suffers from cerebral palsy.

Little Kayla McCraw is permanently disabled and will likely require round-the-clock care for the rest of her life. Tripler is paying the McCraw family 11 million dollars in this settlement.

Kayla was barely clinging to life when she was born in 2005 with her umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck. Lawyers for the family claim, because of a breakdown in communication between doctors at Tripler, it took almost an hour to deliver her.

They say it wasn't that doctors misread the situation – it was that the medical team failed to take the necessary steps, quickly enough, to help Kayla while she was in distress during birth.

After her delivery, doctors tried to resuscitate her, but lawyers say an inexperienced intern mistakenly put a respiratory tube in her esophagus, rather than her trachea - which pumped oxygen into her stomach instead of her lungs.

"In short, what we had here was a series of egregious medical errors over a period of two hours which resulted in severe brain damage, " says Michael Livingston, one of the McCraw family attorneys from the law office of Davis, Levin, Livingston.

Up until now, the family has been footing the bill for most of her medical needs. Livingston says, "She'll never talk. She'll never walk. She'll never have control over her bowel or bladder functions. She will probably have to be tube-fed for the remainder of her life."

Tripler is the largest military hospital in the Pacific and supports tens of thousands of active duty servicemembers, veterans, and their families. But in the last decade alone, the medical center has paid out claims in at least four child-related cases - most notably, a 2006 judgment of $16.5 million and a 2007 judgment of almost $9.5 million - both for children who suffered massive brain damage while being treated.

Despite the settlement, the family is still understandably distraught. Kayla's father, David McCraw, told Hawaii News Now he just wishes this all never happened. "I really pray that Tripler learns from this and takes precautions so it doesn't happen again. Something has to change."

The team at Davis, Levin, Livingston has handled cases against Tripler before and says that, if there is a common thread, it has to do a failure by doctors to communicate and stay on top of a condition as it unfolds.

For its part, Tripler says it accepts full responsibility. "The circumstances surrounding the November 2005 birth of Kayla McCraw at Tripler Army Medical Center were an unfortunate tragedy … Tripler is especially gratified in knowing that the settlement monies will ensure that Kayla will receive the medical care, assistance, and rehabilitation that she needs for the rest of her life … Tripler has completed an extensive review and evaluation of this case and has already implemented important changes designed to ensure that similar tragedies do not occur in the future."

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