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Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit: Indiana Family Fights State’s Malpractice Cap

scales and gavelAn Indiana couple is fighting the malpractice cap in Indiana on behalf of their disabled daughter. The couple filed a lawsuit against the hospital where the child was born, alleging negligence and malpractice led to their daughter’s birth injuries. However, the case has been stalled in the legal system due to a malpractice cap in the state that does not provide sufficient compensation for the ongoing care of the child.

Premature birth of child leads to birth injuries

The Evansville couple filed their original cerebral palsy lawsuit in 2005, following the birth of their daughter in 2003. The plaintiff mother was only 33 weeks into her pregnancy when she went St. Mary’s Medical Center for fetal blood sampling. The couple state in their complaint that staff at the center failed to provide continuous ultrasound guidance throughout the entire procedure, which led to the premature birth of their daughter.

After birth, the couple’s daughter was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The child has lost the use of all four of her limbs. She also lost her ability to speak and must be fed through a tube in her stomach. Due to her injuries, the child is likely to need a substantial amount of care and treatment throughout her entire life.

About cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is the most common type of motor disability diagnosed in childhood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of the condition ranges from around 1.5 to four in every 1,000 live births. One common cause of cerebral palsy is oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery, which can lead to permanent brain damage in the child. There are varying degrees of cerebral palsy, with quadriplegic cerebral palsy being one of the most severe and debilitating forms of the condition.

The couple was awarded $15 million in damages by a Vanderburgh County jury in 2013. However, the malpractice cap for Indiana only allows the couple to receive $1.25 million under state law. The plaintiffs have argued that amount is not sufficient to properly care for their daughter. An expert for the plaintiffs testified at the trial that the estimated total lifetime cost of caring for the child will be $8 million to $10 million.

About the Indiana malpractice cap

The malpractice cap was established in Indiana in 1975. Under the law, physicians can only be held liable for $250,000 in damages per patient, with a total cap of $750,000 in a single year. The Indiana Patient Compensation Fund was also set up to compensate victims of malpractice any excess damages, with a limit of $1 million. Proponents of the cap, including the lawyers for the state in this case, assert the cap is necessary to keeping malpractice insurance rates and healthcare costs low.

In addition to challenging the constitutionality of the malpractice cap, the couple is questioning whether the medical center is even eligible to receive payment from the state’s compensation fund. However, attorneys for the center have denied malpractice allegations and maintained the center is eligible for compensation from the state.

While the couple is waiting for the legal process to run its full course, Medicaid has waived income requirements in order to provide the couple with additional financial assistance in caring for their child. However, if the plaintiffs do finally receive damages for their child’s injuries, they will have to reimburse Medicaid. The mother plaintiff told local media that the estimated amount that will be due to Medicaid could be as high as $500,000.

  1. Claims Journal, Indiana Family Continues to Fight against Indiana Malpractice Cap,

  2. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, Potentially Avoidable Injuries to Mothers and Newborns during Childbirth, 2006,

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Data & Statistics for Cerebral Palsy,

  4. Indiana State Medical Association, Medical Malpractice,

  5., Types of Cerebral Palsy,