An Air Force lieutenant colonel and his 5-year-old son who is afflicted with cerebral palsy have received $770,000 from the federal government after the father claimed mistakes by Army medical personnel in West Germany caused the birth defect.
Lt. Col. Joseph K. Phipps, a member of the Air Force staff in the Pentagon, received $70,000 and his son, Robert V., received $700,000 earlier this month in a settlement signed by the U.S. Army Claims Service in Fort Meade, Md., according to Army documents.
The settlement came four years after Phipps, of Springfield, first claimed that medical personnel at the Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in West Germany failed to monitor the heartbeat of his son during birth.
No one checked the heartbeat in the last two hours that Donna P. Phipps was giving birth on May 3, 1979, a standard medical procedure that should have been followed, the claim alleged. The baby was born unconscious, a result of a problem in delivery that could have been avoided if medical personnel had checked what had become a weak fetal heatbeat, the claim alleged.
"Bobby didn't breathe for about 12 minutes," Phipps, a father of four, said yesterday. "We realized later his development was slow and he had some brain damage."
Robert Phipps, diagnosed as having cerebral palsy, is slow in speech and walks with the help of braces, his father said.
Active military personnel cannot sue the government for damages under a provision known as the Feres Doctrine.
The only legal recourse open to the family because the problem originated overseas was to file a claim with the U.S. Army Claims Service, which settles claims over concerns such as property disputes, Phipps' attorney Allan L. Kamerow said.
Representatives from the U.S. Army Claims Service would not comment on the settlement yesterday.