The January 17, 2018 Order of a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Martinsburg, which was issued following a bench trial regarding a medical malpractice claim arising out of the alleged negligent medical care of a newborn, stated that the newborn presently suffers from immediate postnatal cerebral palsy due to anoxic ischemic encephalopathy caused by meconium aspiration and respiratory distress that was not properly diagnosed and treated by a physician who cared for the baby in the hours after the newborn’s birth.
The federal judge found that the services rendered by the physician responsible for the newborn’s care in the hours immediately after birth fell below the applicable standard of care and did in fact cause the newborn to sustain the damages alleged by the plaintiffs. Specifically, the federal judge found that the physician recognized that the newborn needed to be transferred to another hospital’s ICU shortly after birth but failed to do so. The newborn’s condition did not improve, and the hospital where the birth took place did not have the requisite equipment or staff to care for a baby in her condition: during the period of time the newborn was in the care of the physician, the newborn was in respiratory distress, had low glucose levels, exhibited retracting, grunting and flaring, and never significantly improved. As a result, the newborn continued to struggle breathing, became cyanotic, and developed cerebral palsy. The federal judge determined that the standard of care required that the newborn be transferred to a NICU and receive the level of care that is only available in a NICU, which was not available in the hospital where the baby was delivered.
The federal judge awarded non-economic damages in the amount of $673,453.49, which was all of the non-economic damages allowed under West Virginia law. The federal judge justified the non-economic damages award by noting that the child has no prospect whatsoever of approaching normal development, will not graduate from high school with any marketable skills, will remain completely and permanently disabled from any type of meaningful, gainful employment, will need continuous safety supervision, will not be able to make any life decisions on her own, and she is going to be dependent on a caretaker, conservator or guardian to make decisions on her behalf. The child will never be able to walk without a walker or some sort of assistance, it is likely she will suffer from seizures, and she needs physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy to maximize her basic, functional skills. However, the child has a normal life expectancy because none of the above conditions are likely to cause an early death.
The federal judge awarded economic damages in the amount of $6,331,933.00 for the child, including lost earnings ($1,631,125.00), fringe benefits, and cost of future care ($4,607,834.00).
The federal judge also awarded the child’s mother $31,308.00 per year, for the first four years of her child’s life, consistent with the value of the attendant care, for a total of $125,232.00.
The federal judge awarded a total of $7,136,891.47.
Butts v. United States of America, Case 3:16-cv-00053-GMG
If you or your baby suffered a birth injury (or worse) during labor and/or delivery or shortly after birth in West Virginia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a West Virginia birth injury lawyer, or a birth injury lawyer in your state, who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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