$32M Award to Child Born With Serious Brain Injuries Due To Nurses’ Malpractice

Although medical malpractice comes in various forms, it’s always difficult to hear about children suffering from birth injuries that could have been prevented. That’s exactly what happened to a Pennsylvania child who now suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy due to the negligence of two nurses that simply didn’t react properly to a very common delivery complication. According to the Daily Times, Leslie Proffitt was admitted to Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville, PA in November 2009 to deliver Lily.  Her pregnancy had been without complication and she was just waiting to go into labor.

Failure to Follow the Standard of Care

However, at 1:07 a.m. one night, Lily’s heartbeat went from a normal 150 beats per minute to a dangerous 60 beats per minute.  Although that is a critical sign that something is wrong, the attending nurses failed to contact a doctor. When the doctor came into the room at 1:20 a.m., 13 minutes later, she instantly realized what was happening and told the nurses to get their supervisor and an anesthesiologist  immediately so that she could perform an emergency cesarean section delivery. The nurses did not contact a supervisor until 1:29 a.m. and an anesthesiologist until 1:36 a.m. Lily Ciechoski was delivered at 1:49 a.m., but the damage had already been done. A kink in Proffitt’s umbilical cord deprived Lily of oxygen to the brain and she will suffer from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy for the rest of her life.  Her condition causes spasms in her legs and arms and she has difficulty controlling her neck, walking and can only speak six words at the age of five. Proffitt filed a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging that Lily’s birth injuries were caused by the nurses’ negligence. At the trial, Proffitt’s medical malpractice attorney introduced expert testimony that showed that, sadly, Lily may have been born with little or no brain damage had she been delivered 15 to 17 minutes earlier.  The jury awarded the family a record $32.8 million, which will be used to care for Lily for the rest of her life.

Expert Testimony: A Critical Factor in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

As Lily’s case shows, expert testimony in a medical malpractice case is absolutely critical. Licensed healthcare providers are held to a specific standard of care based on their position and the facts and circumstances surrounding the situation. So in this case, the nurses were held to a standard of care that other nurses in the same situation would have provided. If it’s determined that they failed to deliver that standard of care, as was the case in this situation, they can be held liable for medical malpractice. Injured victims and their families can be awarded compensation in the form of medical bills, lost income, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, emotional distress, rehabilitation and physical therapy expenses and any other costs related to conforming the child’s living situation to address their disabilities, such as wheelchairs, ramps and more. A qualified medical expert will review the medical records of the case and offer an opinion on whether the standard of care was breached.  However, the defendants will likely do the same, and it’s up to a jury to decide which expert’s testimony is more credible.  That’s where the experience of a medical malpractice lawyer is most important – to show the jury that your expert’s testimony is more credible and explain why.