Birth Injury Attorneys Obtain $9 Million for A Child with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), Brain Damage, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delays, and Cognitive and Physical Impairments

The total annuity payout for this $9 Million settlement is $16,417,606.69

Plaintiff-minor sought compensatory damages from defendant hospital, prenatal care practice, doctor, and nurses for claims of medical malpractice.

In July 2013, mother delivered a healthy baby girl by c-section. A few months later, she learned she was pregnant for the second time, and she returned to the same obstetrician for prenatal care. The obstetrician’s plan was for a scheduled repeat C-section delivery at 39 weeks gestation, one week before her due date. This plan was also documented in hospital records.

Two weeks before her scheduled C-section delivery, at 37 weeks gestation, mother presented to the hospital at 3:55 a.m., with complaints of contractions and abdominal pain. She was seen by hospital nurses. A doctor did not come to evaluate her at her bedside but was consulted by phone. She was found to be dilated half a centimeter, and she reported a pain score of 8/10. Fetal monitoring showed that mother was having irregular contractions and that the baby was healthy. Medications were given to stop mother’s contractions, her pain went to 0/10 and she was discharged home with instructions to return if her contractions came back.

Mother returned the next night after midnight, with further complaints of abdominal pain and contractions. Her pain was 9/10. She was still half a centimeter dilated. She was noted to be contracting on the monitor and she was admitted to the hospital. Over the course of the next eight hours, nurses spoke by phone six times with the mother’s obstetrician, where nurses related that she was complaining of pain, and that she was fidgeting and unable to sit still. The obstetrician prescribed three pain medications in response to mother’s complaints of pain. Her pain score after the first dose of medication was 6 out of 10. Then subsequently her pain score was 10/10, 8/10, and 9/10.

Mother paged the nurse for help throughout the night. Mother also had the obstetrician’s personal cell number, and she called him that night to tell him she was in pain, and asked him to come help her. The obstetrician responded that an ultrasound would be done and that the baby would be delivered in the morning.

Mother’s pain was mostly non-responsive to the pain medications and the fetal monitoring became non-reassuring in the morning at 8:00 a.m. A C-section was ordered by the obstetrician via phone at 8:05, and he stated he was on his way to the hospital. Mother was in the operating room by 8:37. The C-section began at 8:52 by another Ob-Gyn at the hospital. This Ob-Gyn had just finished surgery with another patient when she was called to help mother. Upon incision by the Ob-Gyn, a severe uterine rupture was discovered. Mother’s obstetrician arrived to the operating room at 8:52, just after the incision. The baby plaintiff-minor was noted to be floating outside his mother’s torn uterus. He was delivered by 8:54. He suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) (HIE) (lack of oxygen to the brain) with resulting severe brain damage.

The baby was transferred to the intensive care unit at a children’s hospital, where he received hypothermia cooling treatment. He was hospitalized for 84 days. Initially, his parents were told that their infant son had extensive brain damage and would likely die or live in a vegetative state. At that time, the parents advised that they did not want their son to suffer, and that he should be allowed to pass away. After cooling therapy was completed and imaging of baby’s brain was performed, his parents were informed that there was a 70% chance their son would have cerebral palsy. Doctors predicted he would never walk or talk, but they indicated that things were better than they initially reported to the family. The parents later rescinded the do not resuscitate status for their son.

After birth, the plaintiff-minor’s medical needs were extensive. He required placement of a feeding tube. After discharge from the Children’s Hospital, plaintiff-minor was moved to a long-term care facility. Plaintiff-minor was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He had pneumonias during his first year of life, requiring hospitalization. Due to frequent aspiration of food and saliva into his airway, doctors placed a tracheostomy to help with breathing. In addition, they later performed a procedure to completely separate the trachea and the esophagus to prevent aspiration of saliva and food into the lungs. Plaintiff-minor is mostly blind as a result of his brain injury, but he can see some light. He can hear. He requires assistance with all activities of daily living. He will require 24 hour care for the rest of his life.

It was expected that the defendants would assert that the mother was only 37 weeks at the time of the hospital admission and was not in labor. It was therefore reasonable to try to let the baby mature longer before delivery. It was also expected that the defendants would assert that plaintiff-minor’s life expectancy was greatly reduced by the severe brain damage and therefore damages would be limited.

Uterine Rupture and The Importance of Prompt Delivery

During pregnancy, labor, and delivery, there are typically no tears in the uterus. In certain circumstances, however, the uterus can rupture, compromising the fetal oxygen supply and jeopardizing the health of the mother and the baby. Mothers are at high risk for uterine rupture during a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC), or when they have had a prior C-section and begin contracting. Because uterine rupture is an obstetric emergency, emergency c-sections must be performed within 2-15 minutes of the rupture. Failure to delivery in this time period can lead to injuries like HIE, cerebral palsy, seizures, and developmental delays.

Cerebral Palsy

The oxygen deprivation caused severe brain damage in this little boy and he now has spastic cerebral palsy, the most common type of CP.  Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that cause a child to have problems with movement, balance, coordination and posture, and it is the most common cause of childhood motor disability.

In spastic cerebral palsy, the muscles do not coordinate in pairs the way they are supposed to.  Instead of opposing muscles working together to create smooth movement, muscle groups become active at the same time, which prevents coordinated movement.  The muscles in children with spastic cerebral palsy are constantly tight, and the child has stiff, jerky movements.