ABC Law Centers obtained a $4.75 million settlement (total annuity payout: $16 million) for a little girl who was born with severe brain damage. The girl’s injuries occurred as the result of a delayed delivery when fetal distress was evident on the fetal heart rate monitor. Fetal distress is signified by a non-reassuring heart tracing on the monitor and it means that the baby is experiencing a lack of oxygen to her brain. This oxygen deprivation is called asphyxia.
From the time the mother arrived at the hospital, medical personnel failed to properly monitor both her and her baby. Shortly after arriving at her hospital’s labor and delivery unit complaining of labor and contractions, the mother was told she was not ready to deliver, and she was sent home. The mother came back to the hospital a couple of hours later and the physicians and residents used Pitocin to induce labor.
The baby’s heart rate tracings were non-reassuring over a 24-hour period, and her umbilical cord was compressed. Umbilical cord compression is a known cause of fetal oxygen deprivation and birth asphyxia. The medical team encouraged vaginal delivery, but active pushing caused very concerning fetal heart tracings. An emergency C-section delivery was finally ordered, but it was too late. The little girl was born with very low Apgar scores, which are scores used to help assess the overall health of a baby and the likelihood that the baby will need medical intervention. Her scores were 0 at one minute and 0 at five minutes and she wasn’t breathing. Resuscitation maneuvers were initiated right after birth, but the medical team had difficulty placing the breathing tube in the little girl’s airway. After several failed attempts at placing the tube, the physicians finally succeeded at securing her airway.
The HIE Diagnosis
Blood drawn from the newborn’s umbilical cord showed that her blood was very acidic, which is an indication that she was deprived of oxygen for a significant period of time. She began having seizures, which is also an indication that she experienced an oxygen-depriving insult. In fact, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is the most common cause of seizures in the newborn period. HIE is a severe and permanent brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation (asphyxia). When head imaging of the baby was performed, it showed brain damage consistent with HIE. In spite of being given hypothermia treatment for 72 hours for her HIE, the little girl was soon diagnosed with cerebral palsy and profound developmental delays.
Reiter & Walsh claimed that the fetal heart monitor tracings showed non-reassuring heart tones and excessive stimulation (hyperstimulation) of the womb, which required immediate delivery by C-section in order to avoid brain damage caused by asphyxia. The delayed C-section caused the baby’s brain to be deprived of oxygen for too long, which caused HIE, seizures, cerebral palsy and developmental delays.