Birth Injury Medical Malpractice Cases, Verdicts, and Settlements
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Birth injuries are on the rise in the United States, with the U.S. being the leader of birth injury and mortality rates in all of the developed nations in the world. While technology has improved, mortality rates have worsened. Many of these incidents were preventable and the result of negligence and avoidable errors. A birth injury lawyer can help people who have been victims of this malpractice to get the justice and compensation they deserve. Many lawyers, like registered nurse and trial attorney, Eileen Kroll at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have helped their clients receive judgments that covered their expenses and pain and suffering.
Some of these malpractice cases have become historic in many states and have set a precedent and a warning for other doctors, hospitals, and healthcare providers to make sure they are providing the best care and decisions for their patients. The verdicts and settlements are meant to send a powerful message, and hopefully bring some financial relief to the victims of birth injury malpractice.
Compensation in Michigan
People who file medical malpractice lawsuits in Michigan are entitled to two types of compensation: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic compensation encompasses the quantifiable costs of your injury, including those you’ve incurred in medical expenses, transportation costs, and care. If your child needs future care due to their birth injury, these would also be covered under economic damages.
Lost wages are another piece of economic damage claim, especially for parents who have had to miss work to tend to their child’s medical needs due to the birth injury. Some parents have to stay home with their child to ensure they are receiving proper medical care, and this can quickly become a financial drain on a family.
Economic damage claims in Michigan medical malpractice cases currently have no set caps.
Non-economic damages include the pain and suffering a child, and their family has undergone as a result of the birth injury. These damages are not quantifiable with medical bills and receipts; instead, these damages show a definitive loss of enjoyment in life, added stress, and unnecessary pain and suffering. There are two caps on non-economic damages in the state of Michigan.
The total amount of damages you can currently pursue in a medical malpractice case in Michigan is $489,000. However, if your child has suffered severe, life-altering physical injury, you are eligible to pursue damages of up to $832,000. These injuries include:
- paralysis due to a brain or spinal cord injury;
- cognitively impairment resulting in the inability to live independently or make decisions;
- reproductive organ damage that will prevent them from procreating.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations and Rules in Michigan
Currently, you must file a claim of medical malpractice within two years of the date of the injury. Wrongful death lawsuits must also be filed within this timeframe. However, if you have been pursuing answers for symptoms that arose after your injury, but you were not sure what was causing those symptoms, the law of discovery is used by most judges to override the statute of limitations.
The law of discovery says that you must have been actively seeking answers from medical professionals for your symptoms, and you must have proper documentation to show that process. The law of discovery will cover medical malpractice cases up to six years after the date of the injury.
Most medical malpractice claims, including birth injuries, never see trial. Many hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies try to settle out of court first and will try to poke holes in your claim. In Michigan, you must bring your case before a medical mediation panel made up of licensed lawyers and at least one licensed medical professional. They will review your case to assess whether it meets the three criteria of medical malpractice. These criteria include:
- The provider violated the standard of care set out by state law;
- The injury is a direct result of negligence by the provider;
- The injury resulted in damages, either economic, non-economic, or both.
If your claim meets these criteria, your malpractice lawyer will move your child’s case forward. Your medical malpractice attorney will utilize your child’s medical records, expenses, and diagnoses to show that your child’s symptoms began or are a direct result of a preventable birth injury. An experienced medical attorney can anticipate weaknesses in your claim, and work with your case to ensure that your claim is not struck down by the mediation panel or lawyers for the healthcare provider.
In many cases, verdicts have been issued in favor of plaintiffs to both compensate the victim of the birth injury and send a message to providers to take better care of their patients. Many of these cases have resulted in historic verdicts which are used to bolster other birth injury cases in other states.
Case #1: Baby Jason
In Monroe, Michigan, a young couple sought justice for their child, known as Baby Jason, when he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy as a result of medical malpractice during labor, resulting in Baby Jason experiencing oxygen deprivation to his brain.
According to the law offices of Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, the doctor ignored signs of umbilical cord compressions on the fetal monitoring strip and allowed the vaginal labor to progress. Later on, the monitor was removed so Baby Jason’s mother could use the restroom. The monitor was off for 10 minutes, allowing further oxygen deprivation to occur.
Two major mistakes occurred during Baby Jason’s birth, and both were clear indications that signs of fetal distress were disregarded or ignored. Cochran, Kroll, & Associates secured a $15.8 million verdict for Baby Jason to ensure that his medical expenses are taken care of for the rest of his life.
Case#2: Baby Upsey
In August 2008, Baby Upsey’s mother went into the hospital at only 36 weeks pregnant with symptoms of placental abruption, or premature separation from the placenta from the uterus. There was no ultrasound technician on duty at the time because it was a Sunday, so the obstetrician performed a bedside ultrasound with an antiquated machine. In fact, the machine had not been serviced in over ten years.
The obstetrician maintained that he couldn’t find a fetal heartbeat with the machine and insisted that it was because the baby had passed away. An ultrasound technician was called in from home and reviewed the obstetrician’s determination, ultimately finding that it was incorrect, and the baby was alive. This resulted in a delay of 81 minutes, where Baby Upsey was deprived of oxygen to her brain tissue. An emergency C-section was ordered after the ultrasound technician’s reading, but it was too late to prevent the damage to Baby Upsey’s brain.
As a result of this delay, antiquated equipment, and the hospital’s failure to maintain proper staff on the weekends, Baby Upsey now suffers from severe spastic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. Ms. Upsey’s lawyers were able to secure a monumental $78.5 million verdict to ensure that Baby Upsey’s care would be taken care of for the rest of her life. Lost wages, pain, and suffering, and emotional distress were also part of the damages awarded by the jury.
Case #3: Georgia Hypoxic-Ischemic Brain Injury Case
A baby in Georgia suffered a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury during birth due to delays in treatment in 2012. The mother went to her obstetrician at 35 weeks of pregnancy complaining of reduced fetal movement. Her obstetrician performed a non-stress test and ultrasound and found there were issues with end diastolic blood flow. The obstetrician did not send the mother to the hospital to deliver her baby immediately but instead referred her to a maternal fetal medicine specialist.
A miscommunication resulted in a three-hour delay for the mother’s consult with the specialist, along with other delays including a delayed admission to the medical center. The baby, as a result of several hours without proper oxygen and blood flow being delivered to her brain, now suffers from seizures, developmental delays, and severe spastic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. A jury found in favor of the child and the child’s family and awarded them $30.5 million in damages.
Case #4: Stephanie Taylor Debes
A Staten Island teenager named Stephanie Taylor Debes successfully sued Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers for $103 million in damages resulting from her premature birth. She began the lawsuit at just seven years old in 2002. Her twin sister Amanda, born shortly after Stephanie, was not injured in delivery.
Stephanie’s lawsuit contends that her mother’s premature contractions, which began at only 25 weeks, were ignored by the SVCMC hospital, and despite having contractions and suffering a membrane rupture, she was sent home on bed rest. The contractions continued for four days before they finally stopped. They began again four days later, and doctors continued to ignore the seriousness of the contractions. Finally, Stephanie was delivered on January 22, 1995, only after her mother was rushed to the emergency room with severe pain.
Stephanie was delivered first, vaginally, and without surgical incisions. Her sister Amanda was delivered afterward and did not suffer any injuries. Stephanie was later diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and has several neurological complications as a result of her premature birth. Because Stephanie will require assistance for the rest of her life, the jury awarded her a partial lump sum, with the remainder of the verdict to be paid out to cover future expenses. .
A similar case in Southern Michigan, also handled by Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. resulted in a $3.8 million settlement for a baby born with Cerebral Palsy due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Case #5: Leondo Stanziano
In Ohio, Leondo Stanziano was born in December 2000, suffering from severe brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen and blood flow from his delivery. His mother was at a high risk for uterine rupture, which is what indeed happened to her. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital failed to properly monitor Baby Leondo while his mother was still in labor, missing the fetal distress symptoms that were occurring as a result of the uterine rupture.
Furthermore, the hospital staff also used Pitocin, the brand name of the labor-inducing drug Oxytocin, which can cause severe contractions of the uterus and can cause uterine ruptures in extreme cases. Because Mrs. Stanziano was already at high risk for uterine rupture, the use of Pitocin to induce labor was risky and irresponsible.
The lack of oxygen to Baby Leondo’s brain resulted in a later diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. In 2009, a jury awarded Baby Leondo and his family a verdict of $31 million to take care of his future medical expenses, along with pain and suffering endured by Leondo and his family.
Case #6: The Malatestas
While a lot of birth injury cases are focused on injuries caused to the baby, mothers can experience birth injuries during labor as a result of negligence and malpractice. In Alabama, Caroline Malatesta and her husband J.T. successfully sued Brookwood Medical Center for medical malpractice and fraud in 2014.
Mrs. Malatesta had three children before her fourth child and had become interested in the benefits of more “natural” childbirth processes. The Brookwood Women’s Medical Center advertised the empowerment and freedoms of being able to choose your own birthing plans, including water birth options. However, Mrs. Malatesta was not given any options during the delivery of her son and was forcibly restrained at times.
At one point during the delivery, she was turned over and required by the nursing staff to keep from pushing her baby boy out for six minutes until the doctor finally arrived. This continuous pressure of the baby’s head on her pelvic region led to permanent nerve damage.
Her traumatic birth experience damaged her pudendal nerve, which causes debilitating and chronic pain in the pelvic region and genitals. It’s a lifelong condition and one that has seriously affected Mrs. Malatesta’s quality of life. A jury awarded her and her husband $16 million in damages. One million dollars went to Mr. Malatesta for “loss of consortium,” which means that Mrs. Malatesta’s ability to be intimate with her husband has been diminished or limited because of her injuries.
If you think that your child has been the victim of medical malpractice during birth, contact Cochran, Kroll, & Associates today. As a registered nurse herself, Eileen Kroll is a unique advocate and birth injury lawyer who uses her medical experience to help move your case forward through the complex Michigan medical malpractice legal system. Contact Eileen today so she can begin working on your case and getting you and your child the justice you deserve. Call us at 866-MICH-LAW.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.