$18.1M Verdict: Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLC

$18,126,600.00 Verdict

Lack of Continuous Electronic Monitoring During Labor Causes Life Changing Disabilities

Congratulations to Kenneth M Suggs, Esq. of Janet, Jenner & Suggs, LLC, in Columbia, South Carolina, for the $18,126,600.00 verdict he obtained on behalf of his client, a mother who gave birth to a baby with low Apgar scores and extreme acidosis due to lack of continuous electronic monitoring. The child now suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, cannot walk, and cannot speak, although she has normal intellectual capacity.

The Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital around 7:30 a.m for induction of labor with her second child. She was postdates, and her baby was known to be large. During the morning and into early afternoon, the Plaintiff’s baby was continuously electronically monitored. During that time, there were periods of minimal variability and some variable decelerations of the fetal heart rate.

The Plaintiff’s physician (one of two Defendants) was a family doctor, who saw her only twice at 8:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m., for about 15-20 minutes each time. At 1:30, cervical dilatation had progressed to only 2 cm. The physician ruptured the Plaintiff’s membranes. After the membranes were ruptured, more variable decelerations were observed by nursing personnel.

The physician testified at trial that the nurse would have told her about the decelerations. Nevertheless, at 3:30 p.m., without further cervical examination, the physician gave permission over the phone for continuous monitoring to stop and intermittent monitoring to begin. The nurse listened to the baby’s heart rate at nearly random intervals, rather than every 15 minutes as per protocol. Sometimes the monitoring lasted for 2 minutes; at other times, the baby was monitored for less than 1 minute. At 5:30 p.m., the monitor showed what plaintiff’s expert identified a deep variable deceleration.

From 5:30 to 6:00 p.m., no monitoring took place. When the nurse attempted to find a heart rate at 6:00 p.m., no heartbeat was initially found, then a heart rate in the 70’s was detected (40 beats less than normal). The bradycardia did not recover with repositioning, and a nurse was called for help. An emergency room physician arrived and tried unsuccessfully to place an internal scalp electrode. Finally, an obstetrician arrived, confirmed an extremely low heart rate after placing the electrode, and called for a c-section.

The baby was delivered with low Apgar scores and extreme acidosis. She was transferred to a university hospital for a total body cooling protocol. She now suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, cannot walk, and cannot speak, although she has normal intellectual capacity.

The Defense argued that intermittent monitoring was just as good as continuous electronic monitoring and that the baby’s brain damage was from a knot in her umbilical cord that suddenly tightened (and then miraculously loosened, so that it was loose at birth).

The Plaintiff’s life care plan called for $7,310,400 in future medicals and $2,316,200 in future lost earnings. After a settlement with the hospital, the case was taken to trial with a jury against the second Defendant (Plaintiff’s physician and practice). The jury awarded the economic losses to the penny and an additional $8.5 million in past and future loss of bodily function and pain & suffering, for a total of $18,126,600.

Mr. Suggs had MediVisuals create a digital interactive fetal monitor strip. They added back the intervals in the strip when there was no monitoring. The visual impact of that – long periods during which there was no information – was a tremendous asset to their proof. Mr. Suggs also used the MRI images to show that the baby had been suffering minor but observable damage to her brain – in the areas affected by intermittent interruption of blood flow.