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Boy’s Violent Birth Produces Record Verdict

by Thomas B. Scheffey
Connecticut Law Tribune

November 13, 2006

Omar Earlington Jr., et al. v. Anthony Anastasi, et al.: A 4-year-old Windsor boy won a record $2.69 million verdict Oct. 31 for partial shoulder paralysis resulting from his unnecessarily violent birth.

Kathleen Nastri, of Bridgeport’s Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, represented the child, Omar Earlington Jr., in the action against now-retired obstetrician-gynecologist Anthony Anastasi. The doctor allegedly failed to properly measure the mother’s pelvis and the child’s head in time to ascertain that a caesarean section was necessary.

The delivery was exceptionally difficult, Nastri said. “In this case, the doctor had every opportunity to evaluate the mother and decide a safe way to deliver her. Instead, what he did was put a vacuum extractor on this baby’s head, and, according to everyone else in the room, pulled with great effort six times,” she said.

Nurses described Anastasi as sweating, breathing heavily and working hard with the vacuum device, said Nastri. “When he finally pulled hard enough to get the baby’s head out, he applied so much traction to the baby’s head that a resident stepped in and told him to stop,” she added. “The resident delivered the baby—and probably saved his life.”

Nastri called Denver, Colo., OBGYN specialist James M. Shwayder as her first witness to explain the relevant anatomy, medical terms and birth process with illustrations and diagrams, without having him comment on the case itself. Dr. Yvonne Gomez-Carrion, of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, testified about the standard of care.

Anastasi’s attorney, James Rosenblum, of the Stamford office of Rosenblum Newfield, relied on Westchester, N.Y., doctor James Howard. Rosenblum did not return a call for comment by press time.

Nastri researched databases of defense experts and quickly found that Howard “had been around the block,” and had an extensive history of testifying on behalf of medical malpractice defendants. She obtained a large stack of Howard’s depositions in other cases from a New York law firm that had faced him on multiple occasions. “He’d testified several times before the New York Department of Public Health in defense of doctors accused of unimaginably bad behavior,” Nastri said.

When Anastasi was deposed, his office records reflected he’d ascertained the mother’s pelvic dimensions. That’s normally done on the first office visit. However, the chart sent to the hospital maternity floor some six weeks before the mother’s due date had no evidence of measuring. “We had the doctor’s office records and the hospital’s chart. The hospital chart section which would have contained the clinical pelvimetry was blank,” said Nastri.

The stress on the child’s shoulder caused nerve damage and a syndrome known as Erb’s palsy. This is apparently the highest verdict for a med-mal case like this, the previous being a case won last year by Nastri’s partner, Joshua Koskoff.

Hartford Superior Court Judge Lois Tanzer presided in the two-and-a-half-week trial, and the jury deliberated for three days. The defendants ignored a $1 million offer of judgment, which will add some $800,000 in interest to the verdict.

Rosenblum has requested additional time to file post-verdict motions.