A Pennsylvania jury has awarded over $32 million to a young girl who suffered brain damage at birth.
The girl’s mother had an uneventful pregnancy and when labor began was admitted to Phoenixville Hospital, in Phoenixville, Penn., for delivery. During her time at the hospital, two nurses were monitoring her progress.
According to the plaintiff’s attorney, at 1:07 am the baby’s heart rate dropped significantly from a normal 150 beats per minute to about 60 beats per minute – most likely due to a kink in the umbilical cord causing lack of oxygen.
The nurses noticed the drop in heart rate on the fetal heart monitor but did not notify the patient’s obstetrician. Thirteen minutes later, at about 1:20 am, the obstetrician came into the patient’s room, saw the heart rate and immediately ordered the nurses to notify their supervisor and locate an anesthesiologist so an emergency cesarean section could be performed.
However, records indicate nearly ten minutes passed before the supervisor was notified, and an anesthesiologist was not located until 1:36 am. The baby was delivered at 1:49 am with brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation.
The child, now aged 4 years, suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, has difficulty walking, controlling her neck and can only speak a few words.
The parents filed a lawsuit on the girl’s behalf suing the hospital, the obstetrician, the two nurses, who were with the mother at the time of the drop in heart rate, and a third nurse, who was involved with the delivery itself.
The plaintiff alleged had the two nurses notified the obstetrician immediately and an emergency C-section taken place sooner, the child might not have suffered brain damage.
Experts were introduced to testify that had the child been delivered 15 to 17 minutes earlier, she should would have suffered minimal or no brain damage. The plaintiff’s attorney argued that the nurses were negligent and breached their duty to the patient when they failed to notify the physician promptly. The attorney also argued that had the baby been delivered faster, she would not have been injured.
The judge dismissed the case against the obstetrician, and the two-week long trial continued against the nurses and hospital. During nine hours of deliberation, the jury found that the two nurses had been negligent, had not met the standard of care required and should have acted right away when the drastic change in fetal heart rate occurred.
The jury found the third nurse and the hospital not negligent. The two nurses who were found negligent are no longer working at the hospital.
The $32.8 million award included over $31 million for future medical expenses, $1 million for past and future non-economic damages and $800,000 for lost earning capacity.