Cerebral palsy is a devastating birth injury that is often the direct result of medical negligence during the labor and delivery process. This page will look at medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors and hospitals involving cerebral palsy.
About Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a permanent muscle movement disability in which the brain is not able to exercise normal control over the movement of certain parts of the body. Cerebral palsy is not a genetic disease that is inherited. Cerebral palsy is actually caused by damage or injury to the brain that occurs during childbirth or sometimes earlier in pregnancy. CP is a permanent, non-progressive motor impairment, which means that it does not get better or worse over time.
This injury to the brain that results in cerebral palsy is because of negligent care in the delivery room cerebral palsy gives rise to a large volume of birth injury malpractice lawsuits which can generate very large verdicts and settlements.
There are 3 main subtypes of cerebral palsy: (1) spastic; (2) dyskinetic; and (3) ataxic. An individual CP case is classified into one of these subtypes based on the primary type and location of the individual’s movement impairment.
Spastic CP: Spastic cerebral palsy is by far the most common CP subtype, accounting for 70-80% of all cases. The main feature of spastic cerebral palsy is disabling stiffness and rigidity in the muscles of the affected part of the body. Individuals with spastic cerebral palsy are unable to relax certain muscles in their body because of scrambled signals from the brain.
Dyskinetic: Dyskinetic cerebral palsy accounts for between 5-10% of all CP cases. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy causes highly variable involuntary muscle movements which become particularly acute when the person attempts to move.
Ataxic CP: The rarest cerebral palsy subtype is ataxic CP, accounting for fewer than 5% of all cases. Individuals with ataxic cerebral palsy subtype appear wobbly, shaky, unbalanced and severely uncoordinated.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy is not a uniform disorder so the signs and symptoms of the condition are often varied. The signs and symptoms of CP are not always immediate, however, so a diagnosis of CP might not come until weeks or months after birth.
The symptoms of CP are usually painfully obvious in toddlers and in babies older than 13 months. Identifying symptoms and diagnosis CP in younger babies is not as easy. Regardless of age, the signs and symptoms of CP will also vary in each individual case depending on the type and severity of CP.
Pediatricians will easily recognize the signs and symptoms of CP and be able to diagnose the condition early on. If you are concerned about whether your baby might have Cerebral Palsy your first step should be to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
The underlying cause of cerebral palsy is damage to the developing brain of a baby during pregnancy or childbirth. This damage to a baby’s developing brain is triggered by a loss of oxygen. Cells in the brain require a constant supply of oxygen and even a temporary interruption can cause permanent cellular damage that can change a child’s life forever.
When hypoxic brain cell damage occurs during birth or pregnancy, the baby may be born with a defect or glitch in their brain. This glitch occurs in the parts of the brain that control and coordinate voluntary movements of muscles in the body. The result is that the child cannot use her brain to move certain parts of their body normally.
All voluntary body movements are triggered by electrical impulse signals transmitted from the brain to the muscles along neuro pathways. With cerebral palsy, these electrical signals from the brain are scrambled or distorted because of the defect in the child’s brain. The result is disabling muscle rigidity or stiffness that prevents legs or arms from moving normally. With severe cases of cerebral palsy, the child may be unable to walk and require medical assistance for the rest of their life.
Medical Negligence in Cerebral Palsy Cases
Most cases of cerebral palsy are caused by negligent care by the doctors and/or labor and delivery team at the hospital. The most common types of medical negligence alleged in birth injury cases are described below.
Failure to Perform a C-Section: When complications arise during labor and delivery that put the baby at risk, performing a C-section instead of a vaginal delivery can avoid these risks and prevent birth injuries. The most common type of medical negligence alleged in birth injury cases is that the doctor negligently failed to perform a C-section delivery (either a scheduled C-section or an emergency C-section).
Fetal Monitoring Negligence: Fetal monitoring devices are used to track the baby’s heart rate during labor and delivery. The monitoring devices provide warnings when the baby’s heart rate suddenly accelerates or drops and the doctors and delivery team are supposed to monitoring these for signs that the baby is under stress. If the fetal monitoring devices are properly monitored, they should give the doctors early warning and they can intervene with an emergency C-section to avoid oxygen loss and cerebral palsy.
Forceps Negligence: when a baby is stuck in the birth canal doctors often use obstetric forceps to facility delivery. Forceps are like a big pair of tongs with curved cups on the ends. The cups are used the grip the baby’s head to enable the doctor to manually maneuver them through the birth canal. Forceps must be used very carefully and skillfully. Too much force or pressure can easily injure the baby’s head. Trauma to the baby’s head from forceps can sometimes lead to internal brain damage and cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Lawsuits
Not every case of cerebral palsy is the result of medical negligence. That being said, the undeniable truth is that medical negligence, mistakes, and mishandling of complications during labor and delivery are in fact the leading cause of cerebral palsy. Even a short loss of oxygen to the brain during childbirth can result in serious injury to a baby. Cerebral Palsy is probably one of the most devastating birth injuries. A child with CP will be disabled and limited for the rest of their life.
Doctors and hospitals never acknowledge that they were negligent or that their mistake was the cause of a birth injury. This is particularly true when their negligence results in a serious condition like CP. If your child was born with CP as a result of medical negligence or error – you have every right to seek financial compensation for the lifetime of hardship and difficulties that you and your child will have to endure. If you want compensation, you will need to take action. The first step is consulting with a birth injury lawyer.
Settlement Value of Cerebral Palsy Lawsuits
Cerebral palsy medical malpractice lawsuits have the highest average settlement value of any type of personal injury case. Why? Because cerebral palsy can often be such a devastating injury leaving an individual severely disabled for the rest of their life. In many cases of severe CP, the child will require permanent medical care and assistance which can be astronomically expensive. This pushes the economic damages in these cases sky high.
According to recent national data, the average verdict in a cerebral palsy case is $18,580,000 and the median verdict is $6,944,500. The average settlement value of cerebral palsy (which only includes reported settlements) is $4,080,300 and the median settlement value is $2,130,000. Nearly 70% of all cerebral palsy cases are resolved by settlement.
Cerebral Palsy Verdicts and Settlements
$78,400,000 Verdict (Philadelphia County 2023): Delivery team could not detect a fetal heartbeat and assumed that the baby was already dead, even though mother insisted that she could feel the baby moving and kicking inside. It was eventually discovered that the baby was not dead, and the ultrasound equipment was simply outdated and malfunctioned. The child was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, caused by the prolonged oxygen loss during the delay in delivery.
$19,025,000 Verdict (Illinois 2023): Labor was induced with cervidil and the mother over-responded to the drug and suffered a uterine rupture during labor. As a result of the uterine rupture, the baby suffered a prolonged loss of oxygen and was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in administering the Cervidil and failing to timely respond when things went wrong.
$1,000,000 Settlement (Indiana 2023): Mother went to a hospital with ruptured membranes and was removed from the monitor and instructed to walk in the hallway to hasten labor. During that time she suffered a prolapsed umbilical cord and the infant reportedly suffered permanent brain damage and spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and filed lawsuit against the doctors and hospital.
$13,00,000 Settlement (New Jersey 2023): Mother was 7 months pregnant and went to hospital with severe abdominal pain. There were very clear signs of fetal distress and lack of oxygen, but delivery team delayed and baby was born with cerebral palsy from lack of oxygen. Lawsuit claim that CP could have been avoided if defendants had delivered the bay 16 minutes earlier.
$2,200,000 Settlement (New York 2022): Baby suffered hypoxic brain damage during her premature birth and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The infant plaintiff’s parents alleged that the defendant, through its staff, deviated from accepted medical standards of care in failing to properly treat the pregnancy as high risk in light of a diagnosis of trisomy 16 and failing to recognize dangers posed by a possible diagnosis of Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), among other failures.
$34,107,628 Verdict (Missouri 2021): A newborn boy sustained hypoxia. He suffered permanent brain damage. The boy developed cerebral palsy. His mother alleged negligence against the hospital. She claimed its staff improperly administered Pitocin, misread fetal heart tracings, and failed to address fetal distress.
Contact Us About a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
If you are concerned your child may have a birth injury, and you think a doctor could be responsible for the harm that was done, you need a top-rated cerebral palsy law firm to fight for your child and your family. Call 800-553-8082 anywhere in the United States or get a free no-obligation Internet consultation.