Sommers Schwartz attorney Richard Groffsky secured a $4.375 million settlement on behalf of a child who suffered a severe birth-related hypoxic ischemic brain injury.
The birth injury lawsuit claimed that fetal heart monitor tracings recorded during labor and delivery showed abnormalities and hyperstimulation in the unborn child, which should have prompted the defendant obstetrical nurse to discontinue intravenous Pitocin to the mother and immediately notify the attending physician, but neither was done. Over the next two hours, the nurse twice noted variable fetal heart decelerations, the second of which was of such sufficient concern that she changed the mother’s position and began administration of oxygen. She did not, however, notify the attending physician or the hospital’s in-house OB-GYN doctor who was seconds away from the patient’s room. This failure proved critical because when the child suffered a dramatic deterioration an hour later, neither doctor was anywhere to be found.
Only after a profound and prolonged deceleration in the fetal heart rate was the Pitocin was decreased, and only by the attending physician when the nurse finally apprised him of the abnormality (although she did not ask him to see the patient). A few minutes later, a charge nurse contacted the attending physician, apparently conveying enough information to him that he not only decided to come in, but he also indicated that he was coming in to perform an emergency caesarian section. When he arrived, the patient was still in her labor bed, still hooked up to IVs and fetal monitoring, and unprepped for surgery – a process that should have taken two minutes – further delaying the transfer to the operating room for delivery.
The lawsuit alleged that the defendant obstetrical nurse responsible for monitoring and interpreting the unborn child’s heart rate during labor breached the standard of care by not taking appropriate and timely action when the fetal heart rate first appeared abnormal, including failing to notify the attending physician or the in-house OB/GYN. Complicating the claim, however, was the testimony of the attending physician that upon his review of the tracings prior to his deposition he concluded that he was called in a timely fashion, and that he would not have expected to have been asked to come in earlier.
Because of the nurse’s professional negligence, the child incurred significant neurological injuries, resulting in mental and motor deficits, cerebral palsy, and global developmental delay. He now suffers from spastic quadriplegia and a seizure disorder and has undergone surgeries to address his spasticity and eating difficulties. The child will require daily living assistance and special care, treatment, and education for the rest of his life. Had the nurse complied with the standard of care, the actions that could have been taken would have resulted in a completely normal neurologic outcome for the child.
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