$5.6 Million Settlement for a Child with Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), Seizure Disorder, and Developmental Delays at a Federally Funded Clinic
The birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh, P.C. secured a settlement for a child with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), developmental delays, brain damage, seizure disorder, cognitive impairments, and physical impairments. The team found that the medical professionals responsible for this case failed to a.) perform a timely delivery, b.) resuscitate the newborn in a timely fashion, and c.) promptly transfer the infant to a tertiary care center.
At around 10:00 am a pregnant mother with a history of obesity and elevated blood pressure throughout pregnancy (consistent with maternal hypertension/preeclampsia) arrived at the hospital in labor. Two and a half hours later, the mother was assessed and a midwife noted category I fetal heart rate tracings, indicating that the baby was tolerating labor well. A little after 1:00 pm the mother received an epidural.
As the hours passed, fetal monitoring strips showed non-reassuring fetal heart rate tracings, meaning that the baby was not tolerating labor, and these were noted by a nurse. Around 8:00 pm, the mother’s water broke, meconium stained fluid was noted and, upon vaginal exam, caput succedaneum (a type of swelling around the skull) was recognized. At this time, the mother’s family requested a C-section delivery, but medical professionals refused to perform one.
After consulting with a physician via telephone and informing them of consistent non-reassuring fetal heart rate tracings, the midwife ordered an amnioinfusion (an injection of fluid into the amniotic cavity). The mother was anxious and her blood pressure was significantly elevated. Consulting with the physician again via telephone, the midwife told the physician that all non-reassuring fetal heart rate tracings had been resolved by the amnioinfusion.
At 1:00 am, the baby was delivered vaginally; he was not moving, had a tight nuchal cord, and had significant head molding. The baby’s Apgar scores were 2, 6, and 8. Two respiratory therapists were present at the time of birth and requested to suction the infant prior to providing positive pressure ventilation (respiratory assistance), but the midwife would not allow it. After a number of unsuccessful attempts by the midwife, and two unsuccessful attempts by the respiratory therapists, the baby began breathing with assistance at 7 minutes after birth.
At this time, the newborn was moved the the NICU, but the pediatric physician was not notified of his birth until over an hour later. The first assessment of the baby by the pediatric physician was not until 16 hours after his birth. Throughout his first day of life, this infant had serious respiratory problems. After assessment, the pediatric physician attempted to intubate the infant two times, but both failed. Following this, the baby had seizures, and phenobarbital (a seizure medication) was administered. The infant was then moved to a tertiary care facility.
Because physicians failed to identify the infant’s exposure to hypoxia-ischemia in a timely fashion, the opportunity to administer therapeutic hypothermia was missed. When an MRI was performed on the baby’s fifth day of life, extensive brain damage was revealed.
This child’s medical needs are extensive. He requires medication to control his seizures and uses a gastric tube (placed at age 3) due to his inability to chew food. He has significant cognitive, sensory, and motor delays and requires constant supervision.
The birth injury attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers argued that a timely delivery should have been performed, that the newborn should have been resuscitated immediately after birth, and that physicians should have moved this newborn to a tertiary care facility more quickly for prompt treatment. In facilitation — after the depositions of key obstetrical witnesses — this case resulted in a favorable settlement of $5.6 million.