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$16 Million Settlement for Negligent Management of Labor and Delivery Causing Cerebral Palsy

Attorneys Carol Nelson Shepherd and Patricia M. Giordano represented a mother who, at the direction of her private obstetrician and just three days past her due date, presented at the hospital for induction of labor. Despite evidence that she already was in spontaneous labor, the obstetrician and midwife assigned to manage her care prescribed a powerful medication – Pitocin – to induce labor, thereby causing stress for the baby. A few hours later, the midwife further increased the risk of harm by proceeding to artificially rupture the membranes when the baby’s head was not yet engaged in the mother’s pelvis. The resulting cord prolapse and severe fetal distress could be remedied only by performance of an emergency C-section delivery by an obstetrician.

However, despite being notified of the baby’s perilous condition, the obstetrician failed to act, and by the time he finally concluded that a C-section was necessary, the baby was delivered virtually lifeless. These tragic events were compounded when the physician’s assistant assigned to resuscitate the baby was unable to properly and timely to intubate the infant. As a consequence of the delayed delivery and inadequate resuscitation, the baby girl suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy resulting in severe physical and cognitive impairments, including cerebral palsy.

The case presented a tragic example of the second-class care poorer citizens sometimes receive in the city of Philadelphia. As part of a program to supply physician coverage for “underserved” areas of the city, the United States of America (through an affiliated entity) selected and provided an obstetrician who had numerous other prior malpractice claims against him. The government paid $7.65 million of the settlement, with the balance paid by the private defendants whose identity is subject to a confidentiality agreement.