A California couple has accepted a $9.25 million settlement on behalf of their baby, who suffered hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy following a problem-filled labor. The family faulted the nurses for failing to monitor the baby despite a doctor's order, among other claims.
The 28-year-old mother was seeing a nurse-midwife, who had reported no problems with the pregnancy. When she was 32 weeks pregnant, she called her midwife to report a problem. The midwife directed the mother to go to the nearest hospital, where an obstetrician arranged for her to be transferred to a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit and perinatologists on staff. Perinatologists are doctors who focus on babies in high-risk pregnancies.
Nurse Did Not Monitor As Ordered
After the mother was on bed rest for several days, the baby began to show an abnormally high heart rate, and a perinatologist diagnosed chorioamnionitis, an infection of membranes surrounding the fetus commonly associated with prolonged labor. He ordered a C-section and continuous monitoring of the baby and canceled the mother's bathroom privileges.
Another nurse came to take over care. She said she was unaware that the doctor had ordered continuous monitoring of the baby or that bathroom privileges had been canceled. She allowed the mother to use the restroom. Later, after the C-section had been postponed due to another emergency delivery, nurses were unable to find the baby's heart rate because of the way the baby was positioned. A doctor finally confirmed that the baby's heart rate was only in the 40s and ordered an emergency C-section. The baby was delivered 11 minutes later and was not responsive.
Baby Has Hydrocephalus And Cerebral Palsy
The baby then underwent brain cooling. When he was three months old, doctors placed a shunt in his brain for hydrocephalus, a condition often called water on the brain. The fluid is cerebrospinal fluid, a clear liquid that is produced in the brain cavities. The brain cavities are connected by ventricles. With most types of hydrocephalus, fluid gets trapped in the ventricles, which causes them to expand. Pressure is placed on the brain, and neurological problems can result.
The child has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and needs assistance with all daily living activities. He receives nourishment by a gastric feeding tube. His parents have cared for him at home since he was released from the hospital.
The family originally sought between $8.2 and $12.4 million for future medical costs over the expected life of their child, as well as damages for future lost earnings. As with many personal injury lawsuits, the amount of damages was disputed. The defendants in the suit claimed that damages were lower, saying the child had a life expectancy of less than 10 years. They also argued that because the boy's parents had given him good care without being licensed, the level of care provided by certified nurse's aides, rather than more highly trained workers, would be appropriate.
The $9.5 million settlement was reached during mediation.
Source: Confidential v. Confidential, 47 Trials Digest 14th 18, 2011 WL 5561173 (Cal. Superior) (Verdict and Settlement Summary)