This page will look at Mississippi medical malpractice cases involving birth injuries. We will review the key points of law in Mississippi and look at the settlement value of Mississippi birth injury lawsuits. For information on other types of Mississippi personal injury cases and example verdicts and settlements, see our post on Mississippi Injury Verdicts and Settlements.
What is a Birth Injury?
A birth injury simply refers to physical injury, damage or harm suffered by a baby as a result of something that happens during the process of childbirth (or earlier in pregnancy). Birth injuries are different than birth defects because birth injuries are not genetically inherited. Rather, a birth injury happens when something goes wrong during delivery, usually as the result of medical negligence.
Common Birth Injuries
- Brachial Palsy Injuries – damage to the brachial plexus nerve junction at the base of the neck which allows the brain to control movement of the arms and hands. Damage to this nerve junction occurs when the doctor pulls too hard or with improper technique during a vaginal delivery. These type of injuries frequently result in paralysis of the arm, a condition called Erb’s Palsy.
- Cerebral Palsy: cerebral palsy is a movement disorder in which the brain is not able to control the normal movement of muscles in the body. Cerebral palsy is one of the most serious types of birth injuries and it is caused by damage to the baby’s brain from oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery.
- Brain Injuries – Brain damage can occur during childbirth if the baby’s oxygen supply is cut off or restricted at any point. There are a number of complications and events that can disrupt the flow of oxygen from mother to baby such as umbilical cord issues, and/or allowing the baby to remain too long in the birth canal. Diligent monitoring of the baby’s heart rate by the delivery team can prevent this.
- Caput Succedaneum – A injury characterized by a particular type of swelling of the soft tissue of the baby’s scalp caused by pressure on the head as it passes through the birth canal. This can occur when a physician improperly uses a vacuum extraction tool.
- Cephalohematoma – bleeding just outside the baby’s skull which often appears as a raised bump several hours after birth. This can occur when physicians improperly use birth assisting tools.
Mississippi Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Lawsuits
In Mississippi, medical malpractice claims involving birth injuries are subject to a 2-year statute of limitation. MS Code § 15-1-36. This law requires that all birth injury malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 2-years from when the “claim accrues” or the claim will be legally barred. In most birth injury cases, the actual injury occurs during delivery and the malpractice claim “accrues” at some point after birth when the parents learn that their baby has been injured.
In birth injury cases, both the parents and the injured child can bring their own separate malpractice claims against the doctor or hospital. Parents can sue to get compensation for the expense of raising the injured child. The injured child can sue for pain and suffering and any future medical expenses or lost wages after they turn 18. The application of Mississippi’s statute of limitations will vary depending on whether the claims are brought by the parents or the child.
SOL for Parent Claims: if the parents of an injured child bring their own separate claims in a birth injury case, Mississipi’s 2-year statute of limitations will usually begin when the child’s birth injury is first diagnosed. This typically occurs either shortly after birth (within the first few days) or within several months after birth. In some cases, such as with cerebral palsy, a definitive diagnosis may not happen until the child is 1 or 2 years old.
SOL for Child Claims: the separate claims of the child in a birth injury case must be filed before the child’s 8th birthday, or within 2 years after the child’s death, whichever is earlier.
Special Notice Requirement for Mississippi Birth Injury Cases
Mississippi law requires prospective plaintiffs in a birth injury malpractice case to give the defendants (i.e., the doctor or hospital) advance notice before filing the lawsuit. This law requires that defendants be given at least 60 days’ prior written notice of the intention to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the notice is served within 60 days prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, the time for commencing the action shall be extended by 60 days. This subsection does not apply if the defendant’s name is unknown to the plaintiff at the time of filing the complaint and is identified by a fictitious name.
What Do You Need to Prove in a Mississippi Birth Injury Case
The plaintiff in a Mississippi birth injury case will need to prove 3 basic elements to establish their claim:
- The plaintiff will need to establish what the applicable standard of medical care was. In other words, they need another doctor to explain what should have been done by the delivery team under the circumstances.
- The plaintiff must show that the defendant(s) actions did not meet the applicable standard of care (i.e., that the defendant provided negligent medical care).
- The plaintiff must show that the negligent medical care provided by the defendant(s) was the direct cause of the birth injury.
Establishing these elements in Mississippi requires expert testimony from a qualified expert.
Medical Negligence in Birth Injury Cases
Most birth injuries 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).
Ignoring Fetal Monitoring Devices
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 birth injuries. Many birth injury cases involve allegations that the delivery team failed to monitor the fetal heart rate or ignored warning indicators.
Vacuum and Forceps Errors
Obstetrical forceps and vacuum pump extractors are tools that OB/GYNs sometimes use to help grip the baby’s head and maneuver it out and through the birth canal. These devices are used in difficult vaginal deliveries in which the baby is stuck or not progressing through the birth canal normally. The problem with these tools is that they require a high degree of skill and technique. If the doctor does not use them carefully and correctly, these tools can easily cause serious injuries to the baby.
Failure to Diagnose and/or Handle Complications
There are a number of known complications that can arise during pregnancy or during labor and delivery. These complications can pose a serious threat to the health of the baby. The standard of care requires doctors to timely diagnose these complications and then properly handle and manage them so as to avoid injury to the baby. When doctors fail to diagnose complications or mishandle them it can result in birth injuries. Complications that can result in birth injuries if not properly diagnosed and managed include prolapsed umbilical cord, fetal macrosomia, and preeclampsia.
Damages for Birth Injuries in Mississippi
Under Mississippi law, both the injured child and the parents or legal guardians can seek compensation for a birth injury in the form of damages. Mississippi law does not have any maximum limits or caps on the damages that can be recovered in birth injury medical malpractice cases. The categories of recoverable damages in a Minnesota birth injury case include:
- Economic Damages: economic damages include all past and future medical expenses related to the birth injury, as well as lost future earnings or reduced earnings capacity if the injury leaves the child unable to maintain normal employment as an adult. This can be a big category of damages in birth injury cases involving serious, lifelong injuries like cerebral palsy.
- Non-economic Damages: non-economic damages basically refers to damages for mental pain & suffering caused by the birth injury. Both the child and the parents can get damages for pain and suffering.
Mississippi Birth Injury Verdicts and Settlements
$3,200,000 Verdict: female infant suffered acute severe metabolic acidosis during birth resulting in cerebral palsy. The lawsuit contended that the defendants delayed in treating the child’s condition and that was the proximate cause of her current condition of cerebral palsy. The jury awarded $3 million to the child and $100,000 to each of the parents.
$225,000 Settlement: second-born child suffered premature birth, brain damage, and complications when the defendant doctor failed to administer the proper injection to the mother after her first child’s birth. The mother and first child had different blood types which resulted in the mother’s isoimmunization. Because of this the second child was born prematurely with complications and brain damage.
$2,408,311 Verdict: plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s negligent medical care, specifically in inducing her labor when her baby was not in a proper position, in causing unwanted lacerations when performing a cesarean section birth, and in failing to repair the unwanted lacerations, forced her to have hysterectomy.
Contact Miller & Zois About Mississippi Birth Injury Cases
Contact Miller & Zois today for a free consultation about potential birth injury malpractice cases in Mississippi. Call us at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.