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.
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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.