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Type of action:
Medical Malpractice – failure to respond to fetal distress

Injuries alleged:
Cerebral Palsy, Seizure Disorder, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, Feeding Difficulty, Central Nervous System Dysfunction, Respiratory Difficulties and Partial Deafness (child); Personal Injury, Emotional Distress and Loss of Child’s Consortium (mother); Emotional Distress and Loss of Child’s Consortium

Amount of settlement:
$3.4 million, present value (with total pay out expectancy of $17,232,276.56)

Other useful information:
The plaintiffs brought claims against three (3) obstetrical nurses and an obstetrical resident for alleged failure to properly recognize and treat fetal distress.

On July 7, 1995 at approximately 6:00 p.m. the patient arrived at the labor and delivery floor of the hospital complaining of back pain, having passed a bloody mucus plug, but not having regular contractions. At this point, the patient was 42 weeks pregnant. She received no medical or nursing attention until approximately 8:23 p.m. At that time, she was seen by a triage nurse. The patient was subsequently admitted to the labor and delivery unit. For three hours thereafter, the patient was attended to only by nurses who noted on the fetal heart monitor, among other things, late decelerations and lack of decelerations. Despite these signs of fetal distress, nothing was done by any of the nurses attending the patient.

At approximately 10:30 p.m. that evening, one of the nurses contacted an obstetrical resident and insisted that the doctor see the patient. Instead of examining the patient, the doctor sent a medical student to take a history of the patient. The obstetrical resident did not examine the patient until approximately one hour later at 11:30 p.m.

At approximately 11:34 p.m., the fetal heart tracings showed a drop in the fetal heart tones to 60-90 BPM for over two-and-one-half (2½) minutes, at which point the obstetrical resident arrived. The attending physician arrived shortly thereafter and an emergency Cesarean section was performed.

The child was delivered at approximately 12:08 a.m. with meconium aspiration and staining, and a double loop of umbilical cord around his neck. The cord was wrapped so tightly around the child’s neck that it had to be clamped and cut off. The child was immediately given to the pediatricians for resuscitation. The minor plaintiff is a severely neurologically impaired child who is partially deaf.

The defendants contested liability on several points, including causation pointing to a note in the record that the mother reported decreased fetal movement two days prior to admission. The defendants also maintain that none of them acted in any way which caused or contributed to the plaintiffs’ injuries.

The defendants also contested damages, including the child’s life expectancy.