The incident occurred almost five and a half years ago when a doctor at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown wrapped a child’s head with ACE Bandages to treat swelling after she was born prematurely. The procedure, said the doctor, John O. Chan, was something he had learned during his medical training in the Philippines. It went horribly wrong. The unusual procedure left the child with a deformed scalp and unable to grow hair on most of her head.
Dr. Chan acknowledged in testimony during a recent four-day trial that the wrapping technique is not normal practice in the United States. A plaintiff’s expert also testified that there is no known medical literature that recommends using elastic bandaging on an infant to treat swelling. The expert faulted not only the doctor but also the hospital for failing to have rules in place to address the use of uncommon procedures.
In his closing speech to the jury, Dominic Guerrini, the attorney for the little girl, who was unidentified in the lawsuit, made an impassioned plea on the child’s behalf. He told the jury: “This isn’t just some cosmetic thing that we throw a hat or a wig on. This is this little girl’s being. This is her childhood, her self-esteem.” The jury in U.S. District Court for the Western District responded with a $47 million verdict, the largest-ever for a medical malpractice case in a federal court in Pennsylvania.
Guerrini, of the Philadelphia-based law firm of Kline & Specter, PC, tried the case with colleague Mark Polin, who is a lawyer and an OB/GYN. The verdict, in March 2018, was the second large award won by the attorney duo in federal court in Johnstown. Last year they won a $14.5 million verdict in a birth injury case in Johnstown.
Kline & Specter, with more than 40 attorneys, five of whom are also highly skilled medical doctors, is uniquely positioned to help people and their families who have been the victims of medical malpractice. The firm’s doctors include two OB/GYNs, a surgeon, a hospitalist and an anesthesiologist. No other firm in the United States has more full-time doctor-lawyers.