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Jury finds hospital negligent in boy's death

Parents awarded $2.1 million in damages

Parents awarded $2.1 million in damages

April 14, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - After nearly seven hours of deliberations Wednesday, a Franklin County jury found Chambersburg Hospital negligent in the death of a 4-year-old boy and awarded his parents $2.1 million in damages.

Christian F. Jessen was declared brain dead June 15, 1999, at Hershey Medical Center, where he had been transferred from Chambersburg Hospital on June 11, 1999, according to court records.

The verdict in the civil trial came after an eight-day wrongful death trial before Judge Richard Walsh in which Christian A. Jessen of Chambersburg and Ellen Rose of Shippensburg, Pa., sued the hospital and anesthesiologist Dr. Yin Keong Ngeow, according to court documents.

The verdict sheet stated the jury found the hospital and staff were negligent in the treatment of the boy and that the negligence was "a factual cause" in harming him. The jury also found Ngeow negligent in his treatment of Jessen, but found that the negligence was not a factual cause in his death.

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The jury assigned 100 percent of the fault to the hospital and awarded the parents $1.4 million based on the potential lifetime earnings of Christian F. Jessen, according to the verdict. The parents were awarded another $500,000 for mental and physical pain and suffering, $100,000 based on the boy's potential support to his parents during his lifetime and another $100,000 for the loss of his "services, physical comfort and society."

"The hospital is sorry for this tragic loss, but because of a pretrial resolution in this case, challenges to the care rendered at the hospital were not defended and the matter will not be appealed," said Kevin E. Osborne, the attorney representing the hospital.

Osborne and James Ronca, the attorney for Jessen and Rose, said details of that resolution are confidential.

Christian F. Jessen was taken to the hospital emergency department at about 2 a.m. on June 11, 1999, and diagnosed with pneumonia, moderate to severe respiratory distress, dehydration, respiratory alkalosis and metabolic acidosis, according to court records.

"He was sick enough at that point he should have been transferred to Hershey" Medical Center, Ronca said Thursday. "He was not in a condition to be treated at Chambersburg Hospital."

Chambersburg Hospital does not have a pediatric intensive care unit and waited too many hours in deciding to transfer the boy to Hershey, Ronca said.

Jessen was admitted to the hospital. His condition worsened and the decision was made to transfer him to Hershey, according to court records. Ronca said an attempt was made in the hospital to intubate Jessen to assist his breathing at about 9:40 a.m.

"He coded during intubation," Ronca said.

Hospital personnel attempted to resuscitate Jessen for about 15 minutes, at which time medical personnel from the Life Lion helicopter intervened and were able to restore the boy's heart rate, pulse and blood pressure, Ronca said.

The trial was scheduled for seven days, but it went an extra day with closing arguments Wednesday, Ronca said.

Court Administrator William Sheaffer said it was one of the largest monetary awards he could remember.

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