On January 17, 2014, a Pennsylvania medical malpractice jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and against two nurses who were the defendants whom the jurors determined to have been negligent in failing to alert the doctor performing the delivery of a baby that the baby’s heart rate had dropped precipitously for 13 minutes during the delivery. The 12-person jury (four woman and eight men) deliberated for more than nine hours following a two-week trial before awarding $32.8 million for the baby’s spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy that resulted from the nurses’ medical negligence.
Another nurse who was named as a defendant and the hospital where the baby’s delivery took place were found by the jury to have not acted negligently. The doctor involved with the baby’s delivery was dismissed as a defendant by the judge during the trial. The two nurses who were found liable are no longer employed at the hospital.
The Underlying Facts
According to the medical malpractice lawsuit, the mother was admitted to the hospital on November 13, 2009 for delivery of her baby towards the end of her uncomplicated pregnancy. At about 1:07 a.m. the following morning, the baby’s heart rate fell from about 150 beats per minute to 60 beats per minute, which could indicate that the baby was not receiving sufficient oxygen, possibly due to a kink in the umbilical cord. It was alleged that the two nurses had noticed the serious drop in the baby’s heart rate on the heart rate monitor but they failed to notify the delivering doctor.
At about 1:20 a.m., the delivering doctor came into the room and immediately noticed the baby’s low heart rate and promptly took steps to deliver the baby by emergency Cesarean section. However, the anesthesiologist was not located until 1:36 a.m. and the delivery did not occur until 1:49 a.m.
The medical malpractice plaintiffs provided expert testimony during the trial that had the baby been delivered by emergency Cesarean section between 15 to 17 minutes earlier, the baby would not have suffered brain damage or would have suffered very minimal brain damage. But the extended delay in delivery resulted in the baby suffering severe and permanent brain damage from the lack of oxygen, leading to her spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy that manifests in difficulty in walking, very limited ability to speak, spasms in her legs and arms, and difficulty controlling her neck.
The plaintiffs’ attorney compared the two nurses’ failure to advise the doctor of the baby’s serious drop in heart rate to an airplane entering a nose dive for 13 minutes without anyone advising the pilot.
The medical malpractice jury’s award of $32.8 million was unexpected by many because the jurisdiction where the case was tried is considered very conservative (in Philadelphia, a $78.5 million medical malpractice jury verdict against a local hospital was handed down in 2012 for a similar delay in delivery medical malpractice case resulting in brain damage).
If you and/or your baby suffered serious injuries or other harms as a result of an unnecessary delay in delivery or other medical negligence during labor and delivery, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you and your child in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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