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$8.5M for Brain Damage to Newborn

Attorneys Daniel S. Weinstock and Carolyn M. Chopko secured an $8.5 million settlement in a case brought in Arizona for a child who suffered cerebral palsy and developmental delays after an on-call obstetrician refused to come to the hospital to see a patient who required an emergency delivery. Nursing staff made numerous attempts to get the obstetrician to review the patient’s at first concerning, then alarming, fetal monitoring tracings and to examine her. The apparent root cause of the problem was that although the doctor initially testified during his deposition that he had spent the night in question at a hotel near the hospital because he was on-call and wanted to be immediately reachable, it turned out that he had traveled to a casino, which was even further from the hospital than his home, in order to spend the evening with his girlfriend.

Compounding the problem, the nursing staff delayed more than an hour in exercising the chain of command, which ultimately brought the doctor to the patient’s bedside. However, after he arrived, he continued to mismanage the patient’s care and failed to recognize that an emergent delivery was needed to prevent a catastrophic outcome.

Moments after a maternal-fetal-medicine specialist who had been brought in as part of the chain of command determined that the baby needed to be immediately delivered, a terminal bradycardia occurred, leading the baby to sustain profound hypoxic/ischemic brain damage.

In achieving the settlement, Weinstock and Chopko had to overcome significant obstacles in that the obstetrician had no insurance and was not employed by the hospital at the time in question. He got involved in the patient’s care because he was covering for another physician who also was not employed by the hospital. Had the case gone to trial, the jury would have been asked to determine whether the covering obstetrician was acting as an “ostensible agent” of the hospital, such that the hospital could be held responsible for his conduct.