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Jury awards millions for delay in C-section
A Hayward, CA, jury recently returned a $14.85 million verdict against John Carper, MD, an Alameda family practitioner, and Alameda (CA) Hospital for delay in performing a cesarean, resulting in brain damage and cerebral palsy.
The mother, Robin Page, became pregnant in 2000. She had a previous cesarean with twins but elected to attempt a vaginal birth, according to a case report provided by the law firm of Gwilliam Ivary in Oakland, CA, which represented the plaintiff. She was admitted on Jan. 19, 2001, for induction because of the baby’s large estimated size. The nurse assigned to Page testified that despite the potential risk to mother and baby from uterine rupture, the labor was treated as routine. At 4 a.m. on Jan. 20, the fetal monitor strip began to show nonreassuring change in the baby’s heart rate. At the same time, Page began experiencing severe unremitting pain, and the baby’s head moved up in the birth canal rather than down.
A nurse called Carper but expressed no urgency or concern about the labor. Carper stayed in bed and went back to sleep. The nurse made a second call at 4:30 a.m., at Page’s insistence. Carper eventually arrived at 4:50 a.m. Carper decided to wait and watch Mrs. Page for further progress in labor, despite a deteriorating fetal heart rate. The baby’s heart rate continued to worsen.
At 5:23 a.m., Carper called for a cesarean when Collin’s heart rate fell into the 60s (normal is 140-150 BPM). Carper did not have surgical privileges to do cesareans. A call was placed to the on-call obstetrician, who arrived after 5:28 a.m. This was the first notice to the obstetrician that Page was in labor. The anesthesiologist arrived at 5:44 a.m., the pediatrician arrived at 5:43 a.m., and the OR nurse arrived at 5:43 a.m. The baby suffered severe, irreversible brain damage.
At the trial, expert testimony indicated that the child would have been healthy and normal had he been delivered as late as 5:30 a.m. Collin has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and has little voluntary control of his arms and legs. He always will be dependent on others for all his daily needs. The jury determined his life expectancy to be 32 years.