Historic $30 Million Birth Injury Verdict Handed Down in Georgia
A jury in Gwinnett County, Georgia, awarded $30 million to a mother and child who sustained severe injuries from allegedly preventable birth complications. The verdict, which came after a two-week trial in July 2022, is reportedly the second highest medical malpractice award in Georgia history.
According to plaintiffs Eulanda and Jason Threat, their daughter January sustained permanent and significant brain injuries during her 2017 birth at Clearview Regional Medical Center (now known as Piedmont Walton) in Monroe, Georgia, due to negligence on the part of attending nurse Gina Sasso and attending obstetrician Dr. Kendra Gamble-Webb. The Threats alleged that after Eulanda was administered medication to amplify contractions and speed up labor, her contractions became too intense, causing January’s fetal heart rate and oxygen intake to drop. Sasso and Dr. Gamble-Webb also purportedly failed to properly monitor fetal vital signs for a total of 37 minutes and were negligent in the timely ordering of a necessary cesarean section.
In addition to damage claims for January, the lawsuit also contended that Eulanda Threat was entitled to compensation for permanent injuries she sustained during the birth. Due to the rapid contractions brought on by medication, Eulanda reportedly suffered severe bleeding and collapsed. She required an emergency hysterectomy to save her life, a procedure the lawsuit argued was avoidable had Sasso and Dr. Gamble Webb not permitted her labor to intensify so quickly.
The Threats legal team, which includes Steven Pickens, Jessica Pickens, and Matthew Benson of Mahaffey Pickens Tucker, as well as Darren Summerville and Madeline Summerville of The Summerville Firm, attempted to negotiate a resolution with the defendants in lieu of a trial but were unsuccessful. According to Pickens, a settlement amount of $6 million put forth by the defense the week before the trial “was the highest ever offered” but was rejected by the plaintiffs. The trial then commenced with Judge Emily Brantley presiding.
At trial, the defense argued that Eulanda’s labor initially presented as routine, and that Sasso and Dr. Gable-Webb provided adequate care as complications arose. The defense team also posited that an amniotic fluid embolism, a rare but serious birth issue that is generally not preventable, caused Eulanda’s severe bleeding and subsequent hysterectomy. But the plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the evidence showed Eulanda’s rapid, untreated contractions contributed to the embolism, and that negligence in properly monitoring January’s fetal vitals and administering a timely cesarean section turned an already urgent situation into a catastrophic emergency.
The jury ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, assigning 20% of the responsibility for Eulanda and January’s injuries to Dr. Gamble Webb and 80% of the responsibility to Monroe HMA LLC, the subsidiary that employed Sasso. (Clearview Regional Medical Center/Piedmont Walton was not listed as a defendant in the case.) January Threat, who is non-verbal, relies on a feeding tube, and has been diagnosed with various neurological issues due to her birth injuries, was apportioned $29 million of the award. Eulanda Threat received $1 million of the award for her permanent injuries, including the hysterectomy. While the defense team said in a statement after the trial that they were “disappointed with the jury verdict in the matter,” Pickens subsequently announced that all involved parties reached a post-trial compromise for a confidential amount, negating the basis for an appeal.