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Medical Verdicts

Was delayed cesarean cause of cerebral palsy?

July 2005 · Vol. 17, No. 7

<court>US District Court, District of Ohio</court>

A woman at 32 weeks’ gestation had been undergoing weekly nonstress tests for a suspected small-for-gestational-age fetus. This time the test, which had previously returned normal results, was nonreassuring. The woman also reported that the fetus had not moved for 2 days. She was then discharged and instructed to return the next day for a biophysical profile.

When she arrived, the test could not be performed because the technician was ill. With fetal heart tones still nonreassuring, she was admitted to a Level I hospital for a possible cesarean section. The cesarean section was performed and the baby was noted to be distressed at birth. The baby was transferred to another hospital and diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

In suing, the woman claimed that she should have been transferred to a higher-level hospital and that the delay in performing the cesarean section was unnecessary. She also claimed that steroids were improperly administered.

The defense contended that based on the lack of fetal movement reported earlier, the child’s injury occurred prior to hospital admission and that the woman refused suggested transfer to another facility.

  • The parties reached a $3.4 million settlement.

The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn ( While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.