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Birth injury causes cerebral palsy, jury finds hospital at fault

Birth injuries can be among the most devastating injuries to Florida parents, especially when the parents' hopes and dreams for their unborn child are destroyed by the negligence of a doctor, nurse or health care facility.

The mother of one child suffered through this traumatic experience that continues even today after her child was born with cerebral palsy. When the mother was 36 weeks pregnant she sought medical treatment at a hospital because she noticed that something was not normal with her pregnancy. She was hooked up to a fetal monitoring machine which did not clarify whether or not something was wrong with her unborn baby. An ultrasound was then performed, and the baby was pronounced dead by the attending physician. Because it was a Sunday, the trained ultrasound technician was at home and not at the hospital.

The ultrasound technician came to the hospital 81 minutes later to verify that the baby had died, but then found that the unborn baby was in fact, alive. However, by this time, the baby had already suffered brain damage. An emergency cesarean section was performed. Interestingly, the doctor told the mother that her baby had "come back to life" during those 81 minutes. He continues to maintain that he performed the ultrasound properly.

During the trial, the jury heard evidence that the ultrasound machine was outdated and poorly maintained. The family's lawyer argued that if modern technology had been used when the first ultrasound was performed, the baby may have been delivered before any brain damage had occurred.

The jury found that the treating doctors were not responsible for the baby's injuries. Instead, the jury found the hospital completely at fault for providing faulty ultrasound equipment, and for not having adequate staffing.

The jury awarded the mother $1.5 million for emotional distress in addition to $77 million to pay for the child's medical care and other expenses related to the child's future needs.

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal, "Pottstown hospital ordered to pay $78.5 million," Jeff Blumenthal and John George, May 4, 2012

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