This article is in reference to a medical malpractice birth injury case we recently handled. The result was a greater-than-$10-million-dollar-partial-settlement after approximately three years of litigation with intensely disputed issues of liability and damages between the parties and the birth injury lawyers. Names, places, dates, and exact settlement figures will not be mentioned as it is our intent to protect all of the parties’ confidentiality.
A female infant was born at an Illinois Hospital via cesarean section. At birth, she had no heart rate, was not breathing and blue in color. She was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy – brain damage resulting from lack of oxygen, which occurred before delivery and continued until several minutes after birth. As a result of this anoxic brain damage, she has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy; she cannot walk; she cannot talk; she cannot perform any activities of daily living on her own; she requires intermittent suctioning of oropharyngeal secretions during the day; and she requires and will require round the clock care on a permanent basis.
The standard of care issues in this medical malpractice case involving a birth injury center on a negligent delay in delivering the child and once delivered, a negligent delay in starting chest compressions on the child.
The mother of the child was admitted to the hospital one day prior to the delivery. All signs pointed to the baby being perfectly normal. There was no reason to think the baby was not getting enough oxygen or that it was anything other than a normal healthy fetus. Right up until 25 minutes before the delivery, there was no indication that the baby had suffered any neurologic injury. It was clear though, that on the morning of the delivery, the baby was in distress and having difficulty oxygenating which needed to be addressed by delivery as soon as possible. That did not happen.
On the morning of the delivery, there was a breakdown of communication between various doctors and other healthcare providers. During the night, the mother had been tachycardic – her heart was beating faster than normal. This may or may not have been communicated to the resident taking over the care on the day of delivery. The standard of care would require the resident to immediately see the mother and make the attending physician aware. This communication did not happen.
Additionally, fetal monitoring was not continuous as it should have been in this particular case. As a result, there was a delay in determining the baby had become tachycardic, a concerning finding regarding oxygenation of the baby and an indication for prompt delivery.
By late morning on the day of delivery, based on mother’s and baby’s deteriorating vital signs, the standard of care required delivery as soon as possible but, because of poor communication among the healthcare providers, it took approximately an hour and a half to deliver the baby, by which time she no longer was breathing and had no heart rate. Once the baby was born, there is evidence that chest compressions did not begin for six minutes after delivery. The standard of care required CPR with chest compressions to be started within one minute.
The defendants vigorously defended this matter and claimed that the brain injury occurred before the mother ever tot to the hospital. Additionally, the defendants claimed that the brain injury was caused by Maternal Immune Activation.
Eventually, after several sessions with a prominent Judge, the case settled against most, but not all defendants. The high partial settlement will provide for necessary medical and medical device needs, provides the best opportunity for her to live the best life possible and provides her with protection and safety.