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Court Upholds $32.8 Million Verdict in Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit

infant holding mother's hand

When it comes to potential birth injuries, cerebral palsy is one of the most debilitating neurological disorders impacting babies and children. For many, the effects of cerebral palsy are lifelong, and require daily assistance, nursing care, and/or support from family and caretakers. Accordingly, birth injury lawsuits alleging brain damage at birth typically seek damages to cover the victim’s care for the duration of his or her life – which can cost tens of millions of dollars.

$32.8 million verdict upheld

On July 8, 2014, a Pennsylvania appellate court upheld a January, 2014 verdict entered on behalf of a child suffering from cerebral palsy due to injuries incurred prior to and during the birthing process. The verdict awarded $1 million for past and future economic loss (e.g., pain and suffering, emotional turmoil), $800,000 for loss of future earnings, and a carefully-calculated $31 million to compensate for the child’s future medical expenses.

On appeal, the hospital countered that there was no causal connection between the nurses’ and obstetrician’s actions (and inactions) and the resulting diagnosis of cerebral palsy. However, the appellate court disagreed, holding that “[the hospital] fails to recognize that the delay, no matter when it occurred in the delivery process, subjected [the child] to the additional 10-13 minutes of oxygen deprivation that ultimately led to her injuries.”

Details of cerebral palsy lawsuit

As is common in cerebral palsy claims, the plaintiffs alleged that negligent monitoring of the child and mother prior to delivery resulted in oxygen deprivation, a prolonged delivery experience, and – ultimately – the infliction of permanent brain damage on the child.

The lawsuit centers around the birth of a now-three year old little girl who suffered from major cardiac decelerations during the 38th week of gestation. At the time, the mother was checked into the hospital after presenting with signs of progressing labor. The nurse on duty fitted the mother with a fetal heart monitor as part of the hospital’s standard practice, however she failed to recognize the emergent scenario unfolding as the baby’s heart rate dropped from 120 to 60 beats per minute.

According to evidence presented at trial, the nurse had not been properly trained by the hospital as to proper fetal heart monitoring techniques, and did not act in accordance with the standard obstetric procedures used during rapid deceleration. Moreover, the nurse failed to notify the attending obstetrician as to the ongoing issues with the baby, and instead had the mother change positions and provided intravenous fluids.

Court documents further reveal that the nurse attempted to enlist the assistance of a more experienced labor and delivery nurse, who refused to help. From there, she sought the assistance of the co-defendant, who joined the nurse in failing to alert the obstetrician – who eventually testified she “wished she had been contacted earlier.”

Roughly 49 minutes after the deceleration, the baby was born via emergency Caesarian section, limp and non-responsive. She was immediately rushed to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (which is not a party to the lawsuit) and was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy – a type of brain damage due to prolonged deprivation of oxygen.

As a result, the child suffers from a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic quadriplegia — and will endure the effects for the rest of her life.