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Chicago Couple Files Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit

infant holding father's hand

A Chicago couple has filed a cerebral palsy lawsuit against a Puerto Rico hospital, a doctor and his wife, alleging medical negligence caused their infant daughter to be born with numerous birth injuries that ultimately lead to her untimely death.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that impairs control of movement due to damage in the developing brain. Many causes of the disorder are widely unknown, but evidence supports theories that infections, birth injuries and poor oxygen supply to the brain before, during and immediately following birth are the common factors.

On November 16, 2012, the plaintiff attended her first prenatal visit at the office of her doctor in Puerto Rico. At the time, she was 32 years old and her last menstrual period was October 4, 2012, making her due date July 9, 2013. This was later confirmed by a number of sonograms.

According to her medical charts, the mother weighed 174 pounds and had a blood pressure reading of 110/70 at this first prenatal appointment. The record also notes that she had undergone a laparoscopic surgery in 2005 due to uterine fibromas, endometriosis and an ovarian cyst. She continued to visit her doctor’s office regularly for prenatal care from January 9 through June 24, 2013, where everything was proceeding normally.

Accusations raised in cerebral palsy lawsuit

A series of ultrasounds, prenatal tests and the information obtained over the course of multiple prenatal visits confirmed that the baby girl was healthy. On July 3, 2013, the mother was at 39 weeks. She went to see her doctor for what was supposed to be her final prenatal visit. Her weight was 195 pounds and her blood pressure was 150/90. During this visit she was ordered to go to the hospital immediately to be induced, due to her high blood pressure. According to her charts, this was the first time her blood pressure was elevated and all subsequent readings were normal.

At around 6:45pm on July 3, 2013, the mother was admitted to the hospital with 70% effacement, two to three cm dilation, -3 station, normal fetal heart rate and a blood pressure of 120/70. Her doctor’s notes are mostly, if not completely, illegible which the claim cites as “clear violation of the standards of care since it limits the ability of any other medical personnel and/or nursing staff to provide adequate medical treatment as well understanding his observations and follow up plan.”

At 10:40pm, the doctor gave an order by phone to have 50 mg of Vistaril and 26 mg of Cytotec administered to the female plaintiff and to notify him of any changes. The claim notes that in light of the potential risks to the mother and her child and/or the secondary effects of Cytotec, the mother required very close monitoring that she did not receive. In fact, the claim alleges that the nursing and medical staff did not monitor the woman until 1:00 am the next day.

The next time the nursing staff checked on her was 2:30 am and another dosage of Cytotec was administered at 3:00 am by the nursing staff, after the doctor ordered it by phone. Again, the claim alleges the nursing staff failed to monitor the mother by not checking on her again until 6:30 am. The fetal heart tracings between 6:00 am and 7:00 am displays a pattern of uterine hyperstimulation and tachysytole, combined with other irregular aspects. The standards of care require the placement of a fetal scalp electrode and intrauterine pressure catheter, but these procedures were not completed at this time.

If the proper standard of care had been followed, they would have revealed persistent hyperstimulation, a deteriorating fetal status non-responsive to intrauterine resuscitation and tocolytic agents and that an emergency Cesarean section was required well before 2:00 pm, when it was finally performed.

Medical negligence allegedly leads to birth trauma

The baby was transferred to a pediatric hospital in San Juan around 8:00 pm with mechanical ventilation and unstable seizures that did not respond to anticonvulsants, for brain cooling. The transfer was poorly executed, as head cooling protocols call for implementation of hypothermia by six hours of age. Evidence of severe neurological compromise continued to persist. A Nissen fundoplication and gastrostomy were performed because the baby had no suck or gag and had gastroesophageal reflux. A tracheostomy was also performed.

The baby was discharged from the hospital on January 2, 2014. She was placed on a home monitor, gastrostomy feeds and was receiving phenobarbital and Keppra for her seizure disorder. She had chronic lung disease and required nebulizer treatments and frequent suctioning. The little girl was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She was admitted to the emergency room on August 11, 2014 with low oxygen saturation, hypothermia and bradycardia and passed away the following day. The death certificate listed the cause of death as septic shock, respiratory failure and hypoxia — related to the profound injuries sustained in utero.

  1. U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, Jessica Oquendo and Rolando Lopez Montanez vs Hospital San Antonio, Inc.,

  2. WebMD, Cerebral Palsy