Featured Case Study

Delay in Delivery at Birth – $20M

Attorney Jim Reed represented the family of a baby girl who suffered permanent brain damage (cerebral palsy) because the labor and delivery nurses left the laboring mother unattended for more than 40 minutes, a violation of the universal nursing standard of care.

Tragically, just 40 minutes can make the difference between a healthy baby and a little girl who will never walk, never talk, and never be able to feed herself.

In this case, the nurses connected the mother to an electronic fetal monitor and left her unattended for more than 40 minutes. Unfortunately, fetal monitors are absolutely no good if no one is there to read the results.

That’s why the standard of care for labor and delivery nurses requires nurses to review the monitor strips for the first 20 minutes that the mother is placed on the monitor. If all is well after 20 minutes, the mother can then be left unattended for short periods of time. If the strips are not, then the nurse is trained to immediately intervene and summon a doctor, if necessary.

In this case, a careful review of the medical records revealed that the mother had been left unattended for the first 40-plus minutes she was placed on the fetal monitor and the monitor strips showed that the baby was in trouble and needed immediate delivery.

The problem is that no one was in the room to read the results and respond to the baby’s cries for help. As a result, the necessary Cesarean section to rescue the baby was delayed by more than an hour, causing the baby to suffer profound brain damage (cerebral palsy). The baby was rushed from Corning Hospital to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, but the damage was already done. The baby had a permanent brain injury called Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), which means that the baby’s brain was deprived of oxygen at birth.

As is always the case in medical malpractice cases, this case was very vigorously defended. It was not until 2007, more than NINE years after the baby’s birth in August, 1998, that the lawyers for the malpractice insurance companies finally made any offer to settle the case. And it was not until after Steuben County Supreme Court Judge Joseph Latham actually set a firm trial date that the insurance carriers finally offered a present value amount of $2.4 million to settle the case.

By very sophisticated use of annuities, life insurance planning, and a supplemental needs trust, the expected payout of benefits to this woman over her projected lifetime will be more than $20 million. It sounds like a lot of money, but given the high cost of medical care and the 24/7/365 medical needs of this woman the rest of her life, all of that money will be needed for her care.

As experienced medical malpractice attorneys know, there is no such thing as an “easy” medical negligence case. No matter how strong your case, the doctors, hospitals and their medical malpractice insurance carriers vigorously defend these cases. They force lawyers to spend many years and tens of thousands of dollars (we have invested more than $80,000 in some cases) prosecuting a case. Consequently, there is nothing more satisfying than resolving a case in a manner that you know will benefit your deserving client for the rest of their life.