Injured Child’s Care Ensured by $11.5M Settlement
Courtney Sweasy—January 23, 2020
Breit Cantor Grana Buckner recently partnered with another law firm to pursue justice on behalf of a Navy family whose child was injured by a devastatingly preventable mistake in the delivery room.
The lawsuit stemmed from the birth of a boy, identified in court documents only by the initials D.B., in late 2014 at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam where his parents were stationed at the time. D.B.’s mother was admitted to the hospital around 7 a.m. in the morning after her membranes ruptured at home.
At admission, the baby’s fetal heart rate “reflected a well oxygenated fetus,” the lawsuit said. Throughout the labor, the fetal heart rate monitor continued to show signs that the fetus was healthy and neurologically intact. However, as the labor progressed, there were signs of fetal stress and meconium (fetal stool) was noted in the amniotic fluid. Although it does not always lead to meconium aspiration, doctors should be careful when they notice meconium in amniotic fluid, because it can lead to the inhalation of fetal stool and a shortage of oxygen in the infant.
In accordance with policies established by the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, a pediatrician, John McDonnell, M.D., was called and summoned to the delivery room in advance of delivery so that he could clear the baby’s airway and perform any necessary resuscitation. By 12:01 a.m. the next morning, medical staff determined the baby was ready and urged the mother to push.
In this family’s case, after almost two hours of pushing, D.B. was born at 1:56 a.m. It was noted that D.B. was covered in meconium and “floppy and non-vigorous”. D.B. was immediately handed to Dr. McDonnell by the obstetrician and brought to the warmer for resuscitation. Instead of clearing D.B.’s airway in accordance with the applicable edition of the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (“NRP”), Dr. McDonnell skipped that step of the algorithm when he could not immediately locate the meconium aspirator, which is used to suck out meconium from the trachea. Dr. McDonnell later noted that the meconium aspirator “had fallen behind the bed and was not readily available.” Rather than seek another meconium aspirator, he simply performed a more cursory bulb suctioning of the baby’s mouth leaving the trachea unsuctioned.
Over the course of the first 19 minutes of D.B.’s life, D.B. showed obvious signs that he was not being adequately ventilated. His vitals did not improve despite multiple attempts at intubation, chest compressions, and bag and mask ventilation. During these 19 minutes, Dr. McDonnell made several unsuccessful attempts to intubate D.B., yet the records reflect that he never suctioned the trachea. At approximately 19 minutes of life, an anesthesia provider took over the resuscitation and was able to successfully intubate and suction D.B. Immediately thereafter, D.B.’s vitals improved and was stabilized enough to be transported to local hospital with a NICU.
Eventually, D.B. was flown to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. There, an MRI revealed a profound brain injury compatible with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), which is an injury that is caused by a sudden and severe deprivation of oxygen and/or blood flow to the brain.
“Had D.B. been timely and properly evaluated, treated, and resuscitated … he would not have suffered permanent neurological damage, cerebral palsy, and its numerous and lifelong sequelae,” the lawsuit said. The settlement will help D.B’s family to insure that his needs will be attended to for the rest of his life.
Instead, our attorneys were able to acquire a $11.5 million settlement on behalf of our client.
According to Attorney Imprevento, the family was “exceedingly happy” with the results. The majority of the money will go into a trust for the child, guaranteeing that all of his future care and needs will be met.
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By Courtney Sweasy