A California family recently agreed to a $5.5 million settlement for severe birth injuries their baby suffered after a doctor ordered a cesarean section, when the baby’s head was almost completely delivered.
As a result of the delay in delivery the family alleged, their baby girl suffered severe hypoxic ischemic brain damage and is blind and deaf and must depend on a gastronomy tube to eat and a tracheotomy tube to breathe.
Hypoxic ischemic brain injuries are caused by a lack of sufficient oxygen to the brain. They are among several types of birth injuries that result from partial or total oxygen deficiency. These injures are among the most serious types of birth injuries.
In this case, the baby girl’s injuries happened as a perinatologist tried to resolve problems during a vaginal delivery . Perinatologists specialize in high-risk pregnancies. During the process of delivering the baby, the perinatologist felt the baby’s shoulder impacted under the symphysis pubis, a cartilaginous joint between the pubic bones. Called shoulder dystocia, this situation can lead to brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s palsy if it is not treated quickly. By the time the problem became apparent, the baby’s head was almost completely delivered.
In the operating room, the doctor pushed the baby’s head back in the uterus and performed the C-section. Nearly 19 minutes had elapsed from the point when the doctor abandoned vaginal delivery to the delivery by C-section.
The baby was not responsive and was resuscitated in the neonatal intensive care unit. She was diagnosed with severe birth asphyxia, or lack of oxygen. Subsequent testing confirmed hypoxic ischemia and severe brain damage.
The HMO and perinatologist argued that their actions were within an acceptable standard of care and that the brain injury had occurred days before delivery. After two weeks of testimony, a three-member arbitration panel rejected those claims, agreeing with the plaintiffs that the perinatologist and HMO had caused the baby’s harm and were liable for the damages. The parties settled for $5.5 million before the arbitration panel issued a final damages award.
Source: Confidential v. Confidential, 33 Trials Digest 15th 21, 2012 WL 3541955 (N.D. Cal.) Verdict and Settlement Summary