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Florida Parents Battling Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit in Court

lawyer and jurorsA West Palm Beach, Florida family has filed a cerebral palsy lawsuit against the obstetrician who delivered their son. The now 16-year-old boy was born with cerebral palsy and currently has the intellectual abilities of a 2-year-old.

His parents are suing the doctor for millions, as they claim he caused their son’s brain damage by haphazardly choosing to suck him out using a vacuum pump instead of allowing his mother to give birth naturally.

The family believes that on March 6, 1998, the day the boy was born, the doctor was more interested in tending to his broken down BMW than to the birth of their son. In fact, an attorney for the family provided phone records in court to show that the doctor was checking the status of his car instead of caring for the mother.

Cerebral palsy lawsuit

Attorneys for the obstetrician argue that he is not to blame for the boy’s injuries. They don’t deny that the doctor was on the phone with a BMW service station shortly before the boy’s birth, but they claim that did not influence his decision-making abilities.

The defense claims the doctor repeatedly checked the mother’s condition with delivery room nurses after she arrived at the hospital around midnight, roughly five weeks before her due date. They claim she was exhausted by the time the doctor arrived at the hospital around noon the next day. Consequently, he believed she couldn’t give the last big push to give birth to her son, so he carefully attached a suction cup to the boy’s head and pulled him out.

Vacuum pumps are used in approximately 10 percent of all births and typically have no adverse effects, argued the defense. They claim the reason the boy has cerebral palsy and other brain damage is unknown, as doctors still don’t know why the condition occurs. However, the defense noted that it is more common in babies born prematurely.

The defense attorney urged jurors not to be swayed by feelings of sympathy for the boy’s parents, claiming the doctor used his best medical judgement during the birth.

This is the third trial for the family of the boy and the obstetrician. One ended in a mistrial. In 2011, a second jury cleared the doctor of wrongdoing, but a judge threw out the verdict, citing misconduct by his attorney.

The trial has created some controversy. Circuit Judge Donald Hafele denied Courtroom View Network’s request to webcast it. Judge Hafele questioned whether the company is a legitimate media outlet. First Amendment lawyers and activists claim the decision was inconsistent with 35 years of Florida history of allowing cameras in the court room. Judge Hafele reversed his decision and is now allowing cameras in the courtroom.

About cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is an incurable neurological disorder that appears in infancy or early childhood. While this condition permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination, it doesn’t get worse over time. Most children with cerebral palsy are born with it, but it might not be detected until months or years later. The most common warning signs are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements, stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes, walking with one foot or leg dragging, walking on the toes, a crouched or scissored gait and muscle tone that is too stiff or sloppy.

A small percentage of children have cerebral palsy from brain damage that occurred in the first few months or years of their lives, brain infections or a head injury.

  1. Palm Beach Post, Lawyer Claims Doctor’s Worry Over BMW Led to Boy’s Cerebral Palsy

  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NINDS Cerebral Palsy Information Page