Was brain damage due to unnoticed cord compression?
<court>Westchester County (NY) Supreme Court</court>
A woman presented to a hospital for delivery. During labor, hospital staff noted variable decelerations on the fetal heart monitor. The defendant physician administered oxytocin to accelerate labor, but ultimately opted for cesarean.
Following delivery, the infant boy was intermittently hospitalized and intubated. It was later revealed that he suffered brain damage, which led to extensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy. The child, 4 years old at the time of trial, cannot speak at an ageappropriate level; educators anticipate he will require special education classes.
The mother contended that the fetal monitoring decelerations stemmed from umbilical-cord compression, which was aggravated by the oxytocin. She claimed this led to hypoxia during delivery. She added that the doctor should have performed fetal scalp sampling and amnioinfusion, and should have conducted the cesarean earlier.
The physician maintained that it was not hypoxia, but an unexpected placental abruption that caused the infant’s depressed postpartum condition. He noted that the fetal decelerations did not establish a nonreassuring pattern.
- The jury awarded the plaintiff $14,703,347.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts (www.verdictslaska.com). While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.