The birth of a child is a heartwarming, milestone experience for any parent. And while advances in medicine have curbed the dangers presented by childbirth, the reality is that complications can still arise during both pregnancy and delivery, potentially resulting in injury to the mother and/or child.
The first issue with childbirth injuries is differentiating between complications caused by a birth injury and those caused by a birth defect or irregularity. Generally, birth injuries are caused by something that went wrong during the delivery process itself, while birth defects involve harm to a baby that arose prior to birth, usually caused by something that happened before or during the mother’s pregnancy. A birth injury can occur due to an obstetrician’s use of an improper medical technique during delivery, or through improper use of a medical device such as forceps or a vacuum. Because of the limited timeframe involved, the cause of a birth injury is usually much easier to isolate and identify than the cause of a birth defect. In fact, the cause of about 70% of birth defects remain unknown.
Most colorable claims, therefore, arise from birth injuries. However, that is not to say that all birth injuries lead to successful claims, or that all birth defects are unavoidable. Complications may arise during delivery that, despite an obstetrician’s use of reasonable and competent skill, result in unpreventable birth injuries. Similarly, a doctor’s conduct while treating a pregnant woman (e.g., prescribing certain medications, improperly assessing a fetus’ health while in the womb) could lead to a birth defect that should have been prevented.
Experience and Compassion
If a child suffers harm due to a medical deviation, they (through their parent or guardian) are entitled to recover all resulting damages. Due to the complexity of the facts and issues involved, parents who suspect their baby suffered an avoidable birth injury should consult with an attorney to evaluate any potential claim. The attorneys at Campbell & Associates have dealt with many such cases. We invite you to call us at 716-992-2222 for a free consultation.
To find a medical professional legally at fault, it must be shown that his or her conduct fell below a generally accepted standard of medical care. To establish the applicable standard, attorneys typically consult with and present testimony from another medical expert qualified in the same area of medicine as the defendant. Once deviation from the acceptable standard has been established, the attorney must show that this substandard conduct caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Example Verdicts/Settlements for Childbirth Injuries
Estate of Roberts v. New York City Health & Hospitals Corp. (N.Y. Sup. 1995) – A 22-year old female security guard died of a pulmonary embolus caused by internal bleeding during childbirth at Defendant city hospital. Her estate sued, alleging that the Defendant doctor failed to perform a timely cesarean section and allowed the decedent’s labor to continue for an excessive period of time. It also alleged that the administration of a contraction-inducing medication (Pitocin) increased the risk of a pulmonary embolus. Defendants contended that the labor was properly managed. The baby survived. A jury awarded her estate $21,150,000 for wrongful death and malpractice.
Leonard v. Rodriguez (N.Y. 2005) – A male infant suffered Erb’s palsy (partial paralysis of the arm due to nerve damage), resulting in right arm shortening and limited motion. The infant’s parents sued, contending that Defendant obstetrician used excessive force during childbirth, failed to properly handle the infant’s shoulder dystocia, and failed to provide the proper standard of care. Defendant denied liability. The jury awarded Plaintiff $6,650,000 for future pain and suffering.
Martinez v. Rimpel (N.Y. Sup. 2015) – An infant male suffered hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) during birth, leading to neurological and neurodevelopmental disabilities. The infant’s parents sued the obstetrician, claiming she was negligent in ignoring signs of fetal distress and failing to perform an emergency Cesarean section. Defendant initially denied liability, but eventually settled pretrial for $2,000,000.