In a major court victory, a judge has ruled that Ross Feller Casey can bring a claim for punitive damages in a lawsuit alleging doctors and hospitals in northeastern Pennsylvania were recklessly indifferent in failing to perform tests that would have prevented a child from being born with a severe brain injury.

Instead, Carolina Hughes, after going to her obstetrician’s office complaining of headache, backache, hypertension and possible decreased fetal movement, was told to return home, use Bengay cream and “eat bland food” the rest of the day. As a result, her son was born with a hypoxic brain injury and is now dependent on a feeding tube, and unable to walk, crawl or stand.

Defendants in the case had asked a judge to dismiss the claim for punitive damages. However, Lackawanna Court of Common Pleas Judge Terrence Nealon decided last week to allow the claim to proceed to trial, ruling that Ross Feller Casey had “sufficiently pled a claim … for vicarious liability for punitive damages.”

Ross Feller Casey founding partner Matt Casey is litigating the case. He called Nealon’s ruling proper, especially at such an early stage.

“If the conduct proves merely to be grossly negligent and not recklessly indifferent then the matter won’t go to the jury; if, however, as it appears to be the case at this juncture, the conduct proves to be recklessly indifferent, then there will very likely be a punitive damage award in the case,” he told The Legal Intelligencer, which ran a front-page article on the ruling.

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