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S.H. , a minor v Kaiser

Dr. Fagel negotiated a $5,000,000 settlement on behalf of a child who now suffers spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and other developmental delays as a result of injuries occurring during the birth process. There were no complications in the pregnancy prior to the mother’s arrival at the defendant hospital, but she developed an elevated pulse and fever as her labor progressed. At 1:30 a.m. the day after she arrived at the hospital, the mother had a temperature of over 101 degrees and the fetal heart monitor showed an accelerated heart rate. No action was taken to address the complications, and the mother began to push at 7:15 a.m. At 7:50 a.m., a certified nurse midwife was called to review the fetal monitor. The monitor showed an elevated heart rate, but the midwife did not take any action to treat the fetus’ condition or notify the obstetrician. At 8:24 a.m., the baby was delivered vaginally with critical vital signs. A few hours after his birth, the baby began to have seizures and was transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The baby was later diagnosed with hypoxic brain damage, which was determined to be the source of the baby’s cerebral palsy and severe movement impairments.

Although the defense contended that all care was within standard and that the plaintiff’s injuries were unavoidable, Dr. Fagel showed that the plaintiff’s severe injuries could have been prevented or at least reduced if hospital staff treated the labor complications differently. The nurses and midwife should have notified the obstetrician at the first sign of fetal distress. The baby easily could have been delivered before the complications became severe and led to oxygen deprivation and the consequent brain damage.