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Tetraplegic Girl Secures $9.87 Million in Birth Injury Settlement

Justice is served

A 10-year-old Irish girl who sustained injuries during her birth that caused her to become tetraplegic has been granted an additional $9.87 million in a birth injury settlement from the hospital where she was born, bringing her total settlement to $11.4 million. Alex Butler received an apology from Waterford Regional Hospital two years ago, along with an interim payment of $1.54 million.

Prior to establishing the amount of the settlement, an 18-day hearing was held to assess her future care needs. According to her lawyer, Alex received intensive physiotherapy in the U.S. that allows her walk a few steps away from the confines of her wheelchair. A previous hearing revealed that the girl would not be physically disabled if she had been born 10-12 minutes earlier. She was in the wrong position in the womb for the final 10-12 minutes of her April 12, 2005 birth and was delivered with the cord around her neck and required immediate intubation.

Birth injury settlement

The hospital has admitted liability for Alex’s injuries. During her 2013 hearing, the Waterford, Ireland hospital agreed the disastrous mistakes should not have happened and noted that they “sincerely regret the tragic consequences their failings have caused.”

Alex’s family accuses the hospital of failing to have any properly trained and competent medical staff onsite to handle her delivery and of failing to make sure a skilled obstetrician was available.

The girl’s family expressed discontent that it took 18 days in court to reach a settlement. Her mother, Sonya Butler, said she is glad her family can now “move on” and give their daughter the kind of life she deserves. However, the mother referred to the attitude of hospital staff during the hearing as “disgusting” and said “they fought tooth and nail” over issues of her daughter’s care.

“They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life,” said Sonya Butler. “They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum, rather than having the life that she should have had”. She noted that her daughter “absolutely loves life” and that “she wants to be out there in the thick of fun and she wants to have a life.”

Tetraplegic birth injury

Tetraplegia, also known as quadriplegia, is the paralysis of all four limbs. This condition is usually a result of a spinal injury. In total, children suffer approximately 2-5% of all spine injuries and more than half of them occur in the cervical area. While the incident level is relatively low, injuries can be linked to significant morbidity presenting challenges to care.

Spinal cord injuries are classified as complete or incomplete. Complete spinal cord injuries cause a total loss of sensation and movement below the level of injury. Incomplete spinal cord injury can result in anterior cord syndrome, central cord syndrome, Brown-Sequard syndrome, spinal concussion and cauda equine syndrome. This type of injury can be difficult to detect in children and may vary in severity based on the child’s age, injury location, spinal fracture stability and other systemic injuries.

Signs of spinal cord injury generally include flaccid extremities, numbness, paralysis, weakness, bowel or bladder incontinence and priapism.

  1. The Irish Times, Girl Awarded Further €9m for Injuries Sustained During Birth

  2. Newstalk, Waterford Regional Hospital Apologies for Birth-Related Injuries

  3. The Irish Times, Mother of Tetraplegic Girl Says HSE “Ruthless” During Hearing

  4. Medscape, Pediatric Spinal Injuries