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Couple seeks additional damages in medical negligence suit

Butler Memorial Hospital
Outside of the Tower entrance at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

A Venango Township couple, who recently were awarded $1.1 million in damages from Butler Memorial Hospital in a medical negligence suit stemming from the 2014 birth of their child, is seeking more than $400,000 in additional damages and a new trial for damages.

Krista and Eric Stalker filed the motions regarding damages Nov. 27, less than two weeks after a county jury awarded them $1.1 million at the conclusion of a two-week trial. Dr. Marydonna Ravasio and Advanced OB/GYN Associates were also named as defendants in the suit, but the jury found neither was negligent.

In a motion for post-trial relief seeking a new trial against the hospital for damages, the Stalkers said the hospital’s delivery resulted in their baby suffering from brain damage from insufficient oxygen, which caused necrotizing enterocolitis and a low IQ.

The motion, filed by attorney Harry S. Cohen, argues a new trial is warranted due to the Stalkers loss of consortium with their child, the child’s IQ test results, an inadequate damage award and personal attacks from defense attorneys against Cohen during closing arguments.

The jury’s award included $600,000 for loss of earning and loss of earning capacity, and $500,000 for past and future noneconomic damages. The motion calls the $1.1 million verdict “grossly inadequate” and argues the noneconomic damage award equates to $6,684 per year over the child’s 74.8-year life expectancy.

Citing testimony from a neuropsychologist who said the child would not be able to work in a competitive environment because of the child’s borderline IQ of 72, the motion claims the evidence presented during the trial supports $1.5 million to $3 million in damages for future lost wages and lost earning capacity.

The motion says the child has had multiple neuropsychological evaluations and IQ tests over the years, and the child’s school district’s independent test found an IQ of 72, but a pediatric neuropsychologist who testified for the defense found the child has a low average IQ of 87.

In addition, the motion argues personal attacks made by defense attorneys against Cohen during closing arguments prejudiced the jury.

The $1.1 million award should be vacated and a new trial for damages should be ordered, according to the motion.

A motion to “mold” the verdict and add delay damages argues the Stalkers have accrued $440,586 in damages since the original suit was filed in August 2015, and asks the court to change the damage award to $1,540,586.

The hospital, which is now part of the Independence Health System, declined to comment on the motions.

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