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Glens Falls doctor ordered to pay $3 million in malpractice decision

Verdict delivered after three-week trial
2011-02-02T14:58:00Z Glens Falls doctor ordered to pay $3 million in malpractice decision By DON LEHMAN dlehman@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
February 02, 2011 2:58 pm  • 

QUEENSBURY -- A state Supreme Court jury in Warren County has ordered a Glens Falls doctor to pay $3 million for medical malpractice for injuries a Lake George girl suffered during childbirth nearly 18 years ago.

The jury heard nearly three weeks of testimony before finding Jan. 27 that Dr. Stephen Serlin, an obstetrician-gynecologist, should pay Marlayna Kineke for a brain injury during childbirth that Kineke's lawyers blamed for a host of developmental problems.

Marlayna, who turns 18 later this month, suffers from cerebral palsy and other health issues, and the jury found that Serlin "deviated from the acceptable standard of care" and that deviation was a "substantial factor" in the teen's health issues. Her mother, Dawn Kineke, sued on her behalf.

The jury verdict came after testimony showed Serlin was summoned to the hospital at 5 a.m. on the day of the birth to perform an emergency Cesarean section. He arrived there at 7 a.m. and surgery began at 8:14 a.m.

"According to our expert, there was a three- to four-hour delay in performing surgery where a brain injury occurred," said lawyer Greg Mills, who represented the Kinekes.

Serlin was one of five defendants when the lawsuit was filed in 2003, nearly 10 years after Marlayna's Feb. 25, 1993, birth.

Court records show that his clinic, Women's Health Institute, Glens Falls Hospital, Dr. Michael Finkowski and midwife Claudia Hobbs were named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The claims against the hospital, Women's Health Institute and Finkowski were dismissed before trial by Justice Richard Aulisi.

The claim against Hobbs went to trial and the jury found that she was not responsible for the girl's injuries.

At issue was when Serlin directed that Dawn Kineke have a C-section after her labor was induced on Feb. 24, 1993.

An expert hired by the plaintiffs claimed that evidence showed Marlayna Kineke suffered "fetal asphyxia" in the womb during labor because her umbilical cord was compressed, court records show.

Serlin and Hobbs were accused of violating hospital policy by both leaving the hospital for at least four hours early on the morning of Feb. 25, according to the lawsuit. At least one should have remained at the hospital during that time period, according to court records.

Serlin ordered a C-section later that morning after he arrived at the hospital.

Serlin said he had no comment on the case when reached by phone Wednesday. A call to his lawyer, John Maloney of Albany, was not returned Wednesday.

In court papers, Serlin wrote that there were no signs of umbilical cord compression or distress by the child during labor.

One of Serlin's lawyers wrote in court papers that a C-section was not ordered because of concerns that it could cause health problems for Dawn Kineke, who the lawyer wrote was "extremely obese." Court records show she weighed around 370 pounds at the time of her daughter's birth.

Mills said the defense also tried to convince the jury that Marlayna's problems were genetic.

They also pointed to the fact that Dawn Kineke, who was 22 years old at the time of the birth, did not confirm she was pregnant or seek prenatal care until she was more than 20 weeks pregnant.

Serlin was directed to pay the Kinekes for pain and suffering, medical bills and rehabilitation costs. Mills said the money will be put in a trust and will be used for Marlayna's care.

"It sounds like a lot of money, but it has to pay for her care for the rest of her life," he said.

Marlayna is a student at Lake George High School who hopes to graduate this year, Mills said.

The verdict can be appealed. Mills said there is to be a conference in the case this week. Serlin has $2 million in insurance coverage and may have to cover $1 million of the verdict himself.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(28) Comments

  1. scooter
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    scooter - February 06, 2011 11:12 pm
    Spiney Norman,

    Why do you have so much animosity toward someone who might be earning more than you? Is it jealousy? What is the real source of the biting sarcasm? I know lots of people who make more than I do. They've worked hard for it (and I've worked hard for what I earn). But I don't have disdain for them simply because they have more money than I do.

    I'm actually in favor of a flat tax. Everyone pays the same percentage, and everyone pays a fair proportion of their income. Let's get rid of all the ridiculous tax shelters and loopholes, and let's end preferential treatment for the very wealthy. I have no issue whatsoever with paying my fair share of taxes. Yes, there is waste, and yes, we need to get control of it, and yes, there are a lot of things that are broken that need fixing.

    By the way, I'm not a "lib" - I'm an independent. It's pretty clear where you stand based on your use of the "lib" slang - I'm sure Rush appreciates your tuning in.
  2. Spiney Norman
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    Spiney Norman - February 06, 2011 2:25 pm
    Re:Scooter:

    "I probably make more money than most people who post here."

    Hey Scoot,I got a GREAT idea! Why wait for the Gov't. to do something about taxing 'the rich' ? Its tax time. Why don't you and your rich Lib friends VOLUNTARILY send the IRS MORE than what you owe ? Say an extra 10 - 15 % ? Ya know,as you make more than all of us that makes YOU what? One of 'the rich' not paying their fair share! Ya know,'it just ain't fair that people like you (money makers) don't have to pay a greater share in taxes'! Think of how much quicker we could get this economy back on track if only you and yours would open your wallets/purses and give 'til it hurts! C'mon, you CAN do it - there's no law saying you can't pay more than you're legally obligated. What ? Too late you say, you've already gone to your tax guy and squeezed out every deduction/cent you possibly could ? That's right, it's 'the other guy' that's supposed to.Seriously, be a leader, start a trend - you can do it Scoot!
  3. Muz i Belka
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    Muz i Belka - February 06, 2011 12:15 pm
    Based on these comments, I think it is eminently reasonable that rather than depend on a judicial system, expert testimony and a jury of ones peers from the community, as required by the U.S. and State Constitutions (which I'm sure the other posters here revere, as I do), we should determine "malpractice" and "due care" based on anonymous opinions of newspaper readers, a few of whom know the physician in question.

    Makes sense to me!

    Actually, I'd only allow the first twelve posters to determine the fate of the doctor, like the jury. And that's not because I'm trying to mimic a jury, it's that most P-S threads go hopelessly off topic after that...you know, name calling about "democrats" and "liberals" and stuff about immigration, drunken driving, welfare queens and god knows what!
  4. Real American
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    Real American - February 06, 2011 10:21 am
    5756917 said: "It is not the government's responsibility to eliminate poverty. It is the the individual's. If we take care of the illegal aliens in this country, no more health care for them, no more free schooling for them, etc., the US would have more than enough money to take care of its own citizens who have fallen on hard times."

    Let's start by taking away entitlements provided to the oil companies. I would bet that all the benefits provided to illegal aliens over the last ten years combined wouldn't add up to those provided to the oil company that receive the smallest annual amount in one year.

    Next stop, agribusiness!
  5. scooter
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    scooter - February 05, 2011 12:22 pm
    5756917 said: " You want to be supported by the government? Go live in Russia. "

    No thank you. I don't need to be supported by the government. I probably make more money than most people who post here. But for dang sure I'm going to stay in this country to make sure my vote keeps the wacko right wing conservatives out of the picture. I always get a kick out of the flag waving conservatives who tout liberty and freedom, but they'll suggest that anyone who doesn't agree with their views should move to another country.

    I actually agree with your point, however. There does need to be more personal responsibility, less reliance on the government, and the immigration issue is indeed a problem. You're correct in saying that the bleeding needs to be stopped.

  6. bigguy0064
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    bigguy0064 - February 05, 2011 10:28 am
    My CONGRATULATIONS go out to both mom and daughter! I sit here and read all these "comments" and everyone is entitled to there own opinion AND i do understand the mom's "high risk" factors, but the Dr. also knew that she WAS a "high risk" and handled it very unprofessionally. in regards to Dr. Serlin's previous DWI record...does anyone seem to forget a CRITICAL part to of that incident? It was bad enough he was drinking and behind the wheel of a car. but he was on his way to the hospital to DELIVER A BABY!!! Right there, that should say an awful lot about his "character". I could go on and on here, but as far as I am concerned, I truly believe he has had a long history with alcohol and I also feel he has been an extremely "lucky" guy to not have had more trouble with it.
  7. 5756917
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    5756917 - February 05, 2011 10:25 am
    Hey Scooter, eliminating poverty is not the responsibility of the government however there is nothing wrong with the government aiding American citizens for a time to help them get back on their feet. Apples and oranges. Do your research; the US spends BILLIONS of taxpayer money on illegal immigrant entitlements. Eliminating the money poured into helping illegal aliens with medical, schooling, getting loans to buy houses, getting social security benefits, etc. will give the US the funds it needs for those who have fallen on hard times TEMPORARILY. Yes, the immigrant laws need to be reformed, but stop the bleeding first. You want to be supported by the government? Go live in Russia.
  8. scooter
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    scooter - February 04, 2011 7:23 pm
    5756917 said: "It is not the government's responsibility to eliminate poverty. It is the the individual's. If we take care of the illegal aliens in this country, no more health care for them, no more free schooling for them, etc., the US would have more than enough money to take care of its own citizens who have fallen on hard times. "

    Hilarious! And typical of the hypocritical and twisted logic from the right. You say it isn't the government's responsibility to eliminate poverty, then two sentences later you say, and I quote: "If we take care of the illegal aliens in this country, no more health care for them, no more free schooling for them, etc., the US would have more than enough money to take care of its own citizens who have fallen on hard times."

    By your logic these people who have fallen on hard times should bear that responsibility - not the government.
  9. smurphny
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    smurphny - February 04, 2011 3:31 pm
    This is just another example of the legal lottery system in this country. Our courts have been ruined by greedy, ambulance- chasing attorneys who have enough lobbying influence to keep sensible tort reform off the books. It's the blame game, exacerbated by too many lawyers, out of control. The litigiousness of our society is just one element dragging us down. Someone's misfortune is very sad but life is neither fair nor predictable and not everything can be blamed on someone.
  10. 5756917
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    5756917 - February 04, 2011 10:26 am
    Boater, I take offense at your constant ramblings that the average person does not understand what is going on in this country. Recent elections have shown just the opposite. It is not the government's responsibility to eliminate poverty. It is the the individual's. If we take care of the illegal aliens in this country, no more health care for them, no more free schooling for them, etc., the US would have more than enough money to take care of its own citizens who have fallen on hard times. The dems instead just keep on spending and spending, giving to all especially those who don't deserve it. Yes, the average American citizen knows this and wants it to stop; thus the past elections. More to come.
  11. summit
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    summit - February 03, 2011 10:26 pm
    Do you truly believe that any jury understood all the medical information that was given at trial? Its highly technical. There is a reason that people that perform these kind of specialities can take 10 to 12 years of work before they go into practice. None of us without medical degrees and training are qualified to make this judgement.

    All of you bring up the DUI. It was what, 4 years ago??? The birth was EIGHTEEN years ago. One has nothing to do with the other


    irishgirl said: I highly doubt the jury found Dr. Serlin at fault for this based on the few details in this article. Let's also not forget that this is the same Dr. Serlin that was pulled over for DWI while on his way to the hospital to perform a C-section. He is a legal train wreck. Yes, he is a brilliant doctor but obviously lacks in good judgement. Would anyone here really want him performing surgery on you or your loved one based on just the DWI conviction."

  12. BobTheBuilder
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    BobTheBuilder - February 03, 2011 4:44 pm
    megalyce said: "And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why our healthcare premiums are skyrocketing. Frivolous lawsuits by people who are looking for someone to blame."

    The State of Texas did tort reform in respect to medical malpractice in 2003 and while the malpractice insurance rates did eventually go down the cost of health insurance for the average Joe did not. It was also supposed to bring doctors into the more rural areas of Texas but that has also failed. Over 150 counties in Texas still have no OBG/GYN doctors. Tort reform is just smoke and mirrors when it comes to lowering the cost of health care.
  13. Real American
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    Real American - February 03, 2011 3:35 pm
    jacobbones said: "This is why the american health care system is the way it is."

    No, it's not. As I said before, tort actions in total account for less than 2% of health care costs. An aging population, poor food system and corporate greed are what drives health costs higher.
  14. irishgirl
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    irishgirl - February 03, 2011 1:41 pm
    To couldbeanybody....did you read the article? There was almost 3 weeks of testimony so I highly doubt the jury found Dr. Serlin at fault for this based on the few details in this article. Let's also not forget that this is the same Dr. Serlin that was pulled over for DWI while on his way to the hospital to perform a C-section. Yes he practices, but he is no longer performs surgery or delivers babies based on the DWI conviction. Do you think that poor judgement was a one-time offense. I doubt it. He is a legal train wreck. Yes, he is a brilliant doctor but obviously lacks in good judgement. Would anyone here really want him performing surgery on you or your loved one based on just the DWI conviction....now put this on top of it.
  15. Localguy101
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    Localguy101 - February 03, 2011 8:50 am
    If the girl's injuries were caused by a delay in care then yes the doctor(s) are at fault especially when: "Serlin and Hobbs were accused of violating hospital policy by both leaving the hospital for at least four hours early on the morning of Feb. 25, according to the lawsuit. At least one should have remained at the hospital during that time period, according to court records."
    Four hours without a doctor and they had to summon one back and it took him 2 hours to get there and an additional hour to prep for emergency surgery. That is far too long of a time to wait.
  16. couldbeanybody
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    couldbeanybody - February 03, 2011 8:29 am
    I am having a hard time understanding how 18 years later, a jury can find this doctor, who I do not know, GUILTY. Just from the little information I read in this article, it sounds to me like the mother was negligent to this child from the get-go and should be held responsible. Obese, waiting 20 or so weeks before acknowledging she was even pregnant. Prenatal vitamins and prenatal care are a vital part of fetus development, so why all the blame on the doctor? I sure hope he appeals this decision. As to his DWI...I would drink too is this lawsuit was looming over my head for almost 20 years!
  17. 7Secondstofall
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    7Secondstofall - February 03, 2011 7:52 am
    Things happen I get that but maybe she didn't know she was pregnate? I mean she was over weight and some people don't know at all until the day they give birth. So lets simmer down on things we have no idea about. This doctor may have helped a lot of people around here but that doesn't mean he never makes mistakes.
  18. jacobbones
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    jacobbones - February 02, 2011 11:50 pm
    This is why the american health care system is the way it is. Every time somethings happen we sue, its become teh american way to pass the blame.
    In reality birth defects can be attributed to the fact that survival of the fittest/natural selection have been stopped by modern medicine. People with genetic defects that normally wouldn't live to reproduce, do and reproduce passing on the bad genes and it snowballs with each generation.
    Its unfortunate that this had happen.
  19. newshound
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    newshound - February 02, 2011 10:43 pm
    i bet this is overturned on appeal...Dr. Serlin is still practicing and his is by far the best ob/gyn office in glens falls...he is a very nice man and a fantastic doctor.
  20. m1ssp1der
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    m1ssp1der - February 02, 2011 7:40 pm
    As we all know people are not held accountable for there actions so it is okay for her to be obese, not take care of herself and seek pre-natal care etc. I guesss I should blaime the doctors for my sons disabilities not the fact that somethings just happen. I went to the doctors immedietly, ate like the doctors said to, watched my weight gain etc but autsim happens. Who can I blaime and sue? haha.
  21. signals75
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    signals75 - February 02, 2011 6:08 pm
    Wasn't this the same doctor who was convicted of DWI on his way to deliver a baby, and subsequently resigned because of this?? And we feel sorry for him? How many times before he was caught?
  22. megalyce
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    megalyce - February 02, 2011 5:51 pm
    Real American - I agree that those are the major reasons, however OB/GYNs pay the highest malpractice insurance premiums of any docs, of course this gets passed along through their services, driving up costs. This is because patients have the ability to sue up until the child turns 18. So if little Johnny can't get a date to the prom, time to sue the OB...
  23. odyessues_26
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    odyessues_26 - February 02, 2011 5:50 pm
    The women didnt even see a doctor in her pregnacy until 20 weeks the baby might have already had problems during development so how can it be Dr.Serlins problem the child came out that way doesnt the mother have some blame on her part for negligence of seeing a doctor through out her pregnacy for check-ups and monitoring of the child to be able to detect the problems before the birth
  24. Report Abuse
    - February 02, 2011 5:17 pm
    It is time to be critical of my party - the DEMOCRATS. They are entirely responsible for outrageous failure to limit absurdity in malpractice awards. To his credit, Obama, in his State of the Union speech specifically indicated he'd be willing to compromise w/ the GOP on this issue that has patients paying higher premiums to provide malpractice ins. It's overdue & I do not mean to be critical of any particular case including this 1.

    The "Great Society" pgrms. of LBJ have not come close to ending poverty. They have instead subsidized the least capable to have more children, raising taxes on those who struggle to provide for their own. The impact on schools has been negative - at best.

    Still, it isn't Democrats who are responsible for US debt - it isn't Democrats that INSIST on $500,000 tax cuts for a ballplayer making 11+ million! Far from ideal, Democrats are far better for workin' Joe 6-pks than Republicans - ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Too many 'Joes' don't understand that.
  25. Real American
    Report Abuse
    Real American - February 02, 2011 4:55 pm
    megalyce said: "And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why our healthcare premiums are skyrocketing. Frivolous lawsuits by people who are looking for someone to blame."

    Actually tort actions in total account for less than 2% of health care costs. An aging population, poor food system and corporate greed are what drives health costs higher.
  26. maxpain
    Report Abuse
    maxpain - February 02, 2011 4:49 pm
    Dr Serlin saved my wifes life many years ago, after she was misdiagnosed by two other doctors.I am gratefull to him.
  27. megalyce
    Report Abuse
    megalyce - February 02, 2011 4:05 pm
    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why our healthcare premiums are skyrocketing. Frivolous lawsuits by people who are looking for someone to blame.
  28. trueheart
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    trueheart - February 02, 2011 3:53 pm
    It seems that some people in this world including the legal system believe in kicking someone when they are down. Dr. Serlin has delivered hundreds of babies in this area and from personal experience has been nothing but a credit to his profession.I am sorry for the family in this case but I am sure that any Ob/Gyn Doctor would agree that due to unknown circumstances babies are born with disabilities not because of any negligence on their part. Dr. Serlin has been ostracized, penalized and embarrassed in this community that he has served so well. After reading the account written in the paper , if in fact they are true, does the mother not share some responsibility by her own actions???

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