$5.5M settlement for baby’s brain damage by nurse midwife and labor nurse
2004 Medical Malpractice Settlement Report
A 5.5 million dollar settlement as a result of baby suffering severe and permanent brain damage at the hands of nurse midwife and labor nurse responsible for labor and delivery at St. Luke’s Hospital
The plaintiff was just 15 years old when she entered St. Luke’s Hospital in November 1997 to deliver her daughter. The plaintiff had taken care of herself over the course of her nine-month pregnancy and had chosen a particular obstetrical practice in New Bedford because it offered her the choice of certified nurse-midwives as well as obstetricians to care for her during her pregnancy, labor and delivery. The plaintiff had no problems or complications during her pregnancy and her baby was healthy right up until the time she was admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital for delivery on November 15, 1997.
The plaintiff was admitted to the hospital in the early morning hours of November 15, 1997 experiencing contractions. The first defendant in this action was the certified nurse midwife on call for the practice that day. The midwife had never treated the plaintiff prior to this date as other midwives in the practice had cared for her during her prenatal visits. The plaintiff was hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor to assess the baby and her contractions and the monitor indicated that the baby’s heartbeat was regular and strong. Mon and baby were cared for throughout the day by the midwife and labor nurse. At approximately 1:25 p.m., the midwife made the decision to rupture the membranes to see if that would help speed up labor. Upon rupturing the membranes light green meconium was found which is an indication that the baby has undergone some stress and requires vigilant monitoring by the nurse midwife and nursing staff to ensure fetal well being. At 2:30 p.m., the midwife made the decision to use a medication called Pitocin to stimulate labor. This medication was begun at approximately 2:34 p.m. and increased the strength and frequency of the plaintiff’s contractions.
The plaintiff continued to labor throughout the day and at 7:30 p.m. there was change in the nursing shift. The second defendant, a labor nurse, came on duty and took over care of the plaintiff and her baby. The labor nurse was solely responsible for monitoring mom and baby during this part of her labor and remained with the plaintiff at all times. The labor nurse was responsible for watching the electronic fetal heart monitor to ensure that the baby was tolerating the labor process and was not experiencing any distress, especially in light of the finding of meconium earlier in the day. At approximately 8:30 p.m. changes on the fetal heart monitor began to appear. Subtle late decelerations were visible indicating that the baby was starting to experience some distress. At 9:30 p.m., the plaintiff was determined to be almost completely dilated (not fully dilated) and the labor nurse allowed her to start pushing.
As a result of these pushing efforts, there were dramatic changes on the fetal heart monitor indicating that the baby was not tolerating this active phase of labor and needed help. Unfortunately, neither the midwife, nor the labor nurse called a physician to evaluate the plaintiff or the fetal heart monitor and took no steps to intervene of help the baby. Rather, they allowed the plaintiff to continue to push and ignored the worrisome changes being seen on the monitor. At approximately 10:15 p.m., the midwife was called out of the room to attend to another laboring patient. Another woman at the hospital was about to give birth and the midwife left the plaintiff alone with the labor nurse. Despite the finding of meconium and the worrisome changes seen on the fetal heart monitor, the midwife left her patient in the attendance of a nurse and did not notify the physician obstetrician that she would be away from her patient or that she needed an evaluation by the physician given the worrisome changes seen on the fetal heart monitor.
The midwife left the room at approximately 10:15 p.m. and the labor nurse continued to monitor the plaintiff. Over the course of the next hour, the plaintiff was pushing in an attempt to deliver her baby. During this hour, the fetal heart rate showed decelerations, decreased variability and eventually an elevated baseline, known as tachycardia. The tachycardia began at approximately 11:00 p.m. and after watching this change for over 10 minutes, the labor nurse finally called to have the midwife come back to the room. The midwife returned to her patient’s room at approximately 11:20 p.m. and the baby was delivered at 11:32 p.m. through thick meconium. At delivery, it was finally noticed that the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around her neck and needed to be cut before she could be delivered from her mother. At delivery, the baby was blue and floppy and needed to be resuscitated. Her Apgar scores were 1, 5 and 5 at one, five and ten minutes respectively. She was immediately taken to the special care nursery and then transferred to Women and Infant’s Hospital in Rhode Island for further treatment.
Today, the minor plaintiff is six years old and suffers from permanent brain damage caused during the labor and delivery process. She cannot walk or talk and she undergoes physical and speech therapy weekly in order to help here with these functions. She is unable to feed herself or dress herself and she relies upon her mother and family for all of her basic daily needs. The minor plaintiff is able to crawl and sit up and the hope exists that someday she may be able to take some steps with a walker, however, she will never be able to live on her own and she continues to take medication to control and prevent seizures.
Trial of this matter was scheduled to being in Fall River on April 5, 2004. The defendants had maintained that there was no evidence of fetal stress or distress prior to the onset of the fetal tachycardia at approximately 11:00 p.m. Further, there was disagreement between the nurse and midwife defendants as to how long the labor nurse had been left alone with the patient prior to calling for the midwife to return at 11:10 p.m. Prior to trial, the parties entered into a mediation process which ended in the settlement of this matter for Five Million, five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($5,500,000).
Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this birth injury lawsuit.
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