Brain Damage in Newborn Settlement is $3.5 Million
2011 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
Medical malpractice lawsuit alleged obstetrician was negligent in failing to deliver infant more promptly as well as resulting brain bleed
In 2001, the plaintiff became pregnant with her second child. The prenatal course was uneventful and at 9:00 p.m. on 11/20/01, the plaintiff presented at full term to Metro-West Medical Center with contractions every 5 minutes. She was admitted to labor and delivery with membranes intact and FHR of 140-150. At approximately 9:42 p.m., the fetal monitor showed a drop in the baby’s heart rate to 80 for 6 and a half minutes before returning to baseline. The defendant obstetrician was notified and the plaintiff was repositioned and placed on oxygen.
At 11:17 p.m., there was a second significant drop in the baby’s heart rate to the 80s for approximately 5 minutes. The defendant obstetrician was aware of the drop. The plaintiff’s position was again changed by the nursing staff and she was given oxygen for a second time. At approximately 3:15am, the baby’s heart rate showed decelerations to the 90s. The defendant obstetrician was notified of the decelerations but she did not change any treatment for the plaintiff.
At 5:25 a.m., the monitor showed another drop in the baby’s heart rate to the 80s. The defendant obstetrician was again notified and again the plaintiff was placed on oxygen. At 6:00am, while the plaintiff was pushing, the baby’s heart rate again dropped to the 80’s. The defendant obstetrician finally decided to attempt to deliver by using a vacuum and the minor plaintiff was born at 6:18 a.m.
After delivery, the minor plaintiff was initially thought to be in good health and was taken to the regular nursery. At approximately 6:30 p.m., (about 12 hours after delivery) a neonatology intern noted that the minor plaintiff was blue with minimal respiratory efforts. His heart rate was also noted to be in the 80s. He was treated with facial CPAP for several minutes and his saturations came back up. The intern noted that the child continued to have persistent episodes of bradycardia with dusky appearance, prompting a further work up. On physical exam, he had a weak cry and a caput. The intern notified the attending neonatologist of the findings but he did not come to evaluate the child.
At 7:30 p.m., the defendant neonatology resident assigned to care for the minor plaintiff examined the child and noted that there were had intermittent episodes of a heart rate to the 70s for 1 – 3 minutes. In addition, she noted that the child had a weak response to painful stimuli with a weak cry and poor respiratory effort. The defendant resident noted that she spoke with the attending and nothing further was done for the child.
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At 1:30 a.m. on 11/22/01, the defendant resident was called to see the minor plaintiff following two episodes of heart rate drop to the 80s. On exam, the resident defendant noted weak cry, shallow respirations and wandering right eye movement. In addition, the child was found with bilateral upper extremity flexion with his fists clinched and an increased fullness of his anterior fontanelle. The defendant resident called the defendant attending neonatologist who did not change any management of the child. Rather, he recommended a head ultrasound and possible head CT scan “in the AM” to assess for intraventricular hemorrhage. By 6:00 a.m., the child had six episodes of heart rate down to the 80s and desaturations to the 70s. The child was noted to be floppy and his cry was similar to a high-pitched moaning sound. Finally, between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., the attending neonatologist evaluated the child and questioned a brain bleed. The child was immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital.
Upon arrival at Children’s, CT scan showed a large, acute hemorrhage with severe hydrocephalus and brainstem compression. The child was rushed to the OR where he underwent an evacuation of the hemorrhage and insertion of a right frontal drain. The child has been diagnosed with a significant brain injury. He has a 1:1 aide in school and requires assistance in most of his activities of daily living.
The plaintiffs were prepared to present expert medical testimony that the defendant obstetrician was negligent in failing to deliver the child more quickly when there was evidence that the child was suffering a lack of oxygen in utero. The plaintiffs further expected the medical testimony to show that the physicians caring for the child after birth were negligent in failing to diagnose and treat his brain bleed shortly after birth.
The defendants were prepared to offer expert opinions that there was nothing emergent about the labor process and that the drops in the child’s heart rate while inside his mother were normal and to be expected. Further, it was expected that the defendants would present expert medical testimony that the child’s condition changed suddenly on the morning after birth indicating an acute bleed. They were expected to present testimony that the child did not have a brain bleed during the overnight hours as the plaintiffs’ experts contended.
The case settled for $3,500,000 at mediation.
Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit.
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