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Medical Verdicts

Brain damage follows group B strep infection

January 2006 · Vol. 18, No. 1

<court>Unknown Massachusetts venue</court>

A 31-year-old woman was admitted for delivery of her first child 26 hours after her water broke. A rapid test to determine the presence of group B strep was negative. During the next shift the woman had no signs of infection and the fetal heart rate remained normal.

Shortly after the infant was born that night, the woman developed a fever. A second rapid test was positive for group B strep infection.

In the nursery the infant began having respiratory distress requiring resuscitation. The infant was eventually diagnosed with group B strep infection and was placed on a heart-lung machine. During the heart-lung treatment the infant had a cerebral hemorrhage, resulting in irreversible brain damage. Now 9 years old, the child has permanent neurological deficits and delayed cognitive development.

In suing, the mother asserted the defense failed to test for, recognize, and treat group B strep infection, claiming her prolonged rupture of membranes is one of the universally recognized risk factors for bacteria transmission. She contended her temperature was not taken within 4 hours before delivery. Moreover, she claimed the rapid tests for group B strep infection are inherently unreliable and that she should have been given prophylactic antibiotics when she passed 18 hours of labor.

  • The case went to arbitration with the agreement that any award would be increased by 50%. The arbitrator ruled against 2 of the 3 physicians, awarding $3.4 million to the minor, $350,000 to the mother, and $175,000 to the father, bringing the entire award to more than $6 million.

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 ( The available information about the cases presented here is sometimes incomplete; thus, pertinent details of a given situation may be unavailable. Moreover, the cases may or may not have merit. Nevertheless, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation and are meant to illustrate nationwide variation in jury verdicts and awards.

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