During the birthing process, parents trust their medical providers to utilize their knowledge, skills and available technology to detect any potential problems and to ensure that the process is carried out smoothly and properly. Unfortunately, accidents and mistakes happen all too often, resulting in birth injuries ranging from jaundice or bruising to more serious injuries to newborn babies or even wrongful death. In order to prevail in a birth injury case, the injured party has the burden of proving the following elements: 1) the standard of care, namely the normal type of care and skill provided by the average doctor in similar circumstances; 2) a deviation from the standard, that is, the doctor failed to comply with the established standard of care; 3) an injury, namely the child suffered an injury before or after birth; and 4) causation, the injury sustained was caused by the doctor.
Leslie Proffitt was 38 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the Phoenixville Hospital in Pennsylvania. Approximately two hours after being admitted, Proffitt’s fetal heart rate dropped from 120 to 60 beats per minute. A nurse attended to Proffitt and performed positional changes and administered oxygen and intravenous fluids. The nurse did not contact a physician, however, did ask for another nurse’s assistance. Neither nurse contacted Proffitt’s physician, who was just down the hall from Proffitt’s room at the time of the incident. Eleven minutes after the fetal heart rate dropped, Proffitt’s physician arrived. Proffitt was then taken to the operating room for an emergency cesarean section. Proffitt’s baby was delivered and immediately rushed to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where she was diagnosed with brain damage caused by lack of oxygen. Today, Proffitt’s child suffers from spastic quadriplegia and cerebral palsy stemming from the birth injuries.
According to The Legal Intelligencer, Proffitt was awarded $32.8 million in damages at her civil trial; $1 million for past and future non-economic loss, $800,000 for loss of future earnings and $31 million for future medical expenses. Proffitt argued that the decreased blow flow, due to the drop in her infant’s heart rate, contributed to the decreased oxygen and increased risk of brain damage. The court found that the Phoenixville Hospital nurses were negligent in not informing doctors in a timely manner that Proffitt’s fetal heart rate had dropped. Jason A. Archinaco and Robert A. Bracken represented Proffitt.