Cerebral Palsy is a serious birth injury that is caused when a baby suffers prolonged oxygen loss during labor and delivery (or earlier in pregnancy). Sadly, just a few minutes of oxygen deprivation during childbirth can cause cerebral palsy, leaving a child disabled for the remainder of their life.
In most cases, the loss of oxygen during childbirth that causes CP is the result of negligent care or management by the doctors, nurses, and/or hospital staff handling the labor and delivery. This page will explain what cerebral palsy is and why it happens. We will also look at cerebral palsy medical malpractice lawsuits in Philadelphia and their average settlement payout value.
Cerebral Palsy is not actually a disease. Rather CP is a group of disorders in which the brain is unable to control muscle movement, coordination and balance. The term cerebral references the brain and palsy is a medical term that refers to paralysis or weakness. CP is caused by a particular type of damage to the brain during developmental stages.
CP and its physical symptoms can vary significantly. Individuals with relatively minor cases of CP might just walk with a slight limp or awkward gait. A severe case of CP might leave the person completely unable to walk at all. CP is not a progressive disorder meaning the symptoms to not get worse over time. In addition to physical movement limitations, most people with CP also have other related conditions such as mental impairment, seizures, vision & hearing impairment or speech problems.
Different Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are several different types or categories of CP. The type of CP is generally based on the main type of movement or muscle control disorder involved. The 4 primary types of Cerebral Palsy are:
Spastic Cerebral Palsy: Spastic is the most common type of CP. About 81% of all cerebral palsy cases are classified as Spastic CP. Spastic CP is characterized by disability muscle stiffness in a particular part of the body.
- Diplegia: With this Spastic CP subtype the muscle stiffness usually occurs only in the legs and lower body. The upper body is typically not impacted. Individuals with spastic diplegia CP are not able to walk normally because the stiffness in their lower body muscles pull their legs and knees inward.
- Hemiplegia: This subtype of Spastic CP involves muscle stiffness on just one side of the body. Typically the arm and upper body is more limited than the lower body and leg.
- Quadriplegia: This is most debilitating form of Spastic CP. With Spastic Quadriplegia CP the entire body – including all 4 limbs and the face – are disabled by muscle stiffness. Individuals with this type of Spastic CP are typically unable to walk at all and usually suffer from other problems including mental delays, seizures, vision, hearing and speech issues.
Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy: This type involves muscles that contract from overly stiff to overly loose. The involuntary muscle movements can be slow or very rapid. The arms and legs are both usually affected. In some cases the face and mouth are plagued making it very difficult for the person to talk and/or swallow.
Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: The characteristic feature of ataxic CP is lack of body coordination and balance. People with this type of CP are often wobbly and unsteady when walking. They have difficulty moving quickly or engaging in fine motor skills such as writing.
Mixed CP: Some cases of Cerebral Palsy involve a mix of 2 or more of the CP types described above. Spastic-Dyskinetic is the most frequent type of Mixed CP. Mixed CP varies in severity also.
Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
As explained above, Cerebral Palsy is not a specific disorder but rather an umbrella term for a group of related movement disorders resulting from injury to the brain during pregnancy, childbirth and early infancy. In most cases, CP results from an interruption of oxygen to the brain during pregnancy or childbirth. This means a baby is essentially born with some type of CP. 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?
Cerebral Palsy is caused by damage to the brain during the critical stages of development – pregnancy, birth, and early infancy. Damage or injury to the brain during this key point causes the brain to develop and form abnormally. The exact type and source of damage or injury to the brain varies in each individual case. There are several recognized categories of brain damage resulting in CP:
Prenatal Cell Migration Interruption: something disrupts or interferes with the normal migration of brain cells during early formation stages.
Prenatal Myelin Issues: Myelin (also know as “white matter”) is a special fatty substance in the body that covers and insulates nerve fibers. When a developing fetus has poor myelin insulation it cannot slow and interrupt the development of the brain.
Birth Injuries: perinatal brain injuries from the temporary interruption of oxygen to the brain during child birth is one of the most common causes of CP. Unfortunately, this is often the result of preventable medical error.
Postnatal Brain Development: trauma, infection or other events in early infancy can disrupt the normal development of brain cells and cause CP.
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.
Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Claims in Philadelphia
Not all cases of CP are the result of medical negligence. But the undeniable fact is that many children end up with CP because the OBGYN or labor & delivery staff at the hospital made a mistake or mishandled a situation. 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 child birth injuries. A child with CP will be disabled and limited for the rest of their life.
No doctor or hospital is ever going to come forward and simply admit that they made a mistake. This is particularly true when their negligence results in a serious condition like Cerebral Palsy. 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 in getting financial compensation is consulting an experienced Philadelphia birth injury attorney. Use the links below to find additional information on CP malpractice lawsuits in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Cerebral Palsy Verdicts & Settlements
- $182,737,791 Verdict (Philadelphia County 2023): The infant suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy with seizure activity, cortical visual impairment and global, neurodevelopmental and gross motor delays. Life-care plan indicted that the child would require permanent medical care. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to timely diagnose and treat a uterine infection (chorioamnionitis) that developed in the late pregnancy stages, resulting in oxygen deprivation to the baby. The defense denied liability for failing to diagnose the infection, and they also sought to reduce the damages by claiming that the child would not live long. A jury in Philadelphia came down hard on them with a massive verdict.
- $78,400,000 Verdict (Philadelphia County 2023): Mother was admitted to the hospital but defendants could not detect a fetal heartbeat and assumed that the baby was already dead. The mother insisted that she could feel the baby moving and kicking inside, but the defendants continued to delay after additional ultrasounds indicated that the fetus was dead. 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.
- $5,000,000 Settlement (Philadelphia County 2022): male infant reportedly suffered two separate oxygen injuries during his birth resulting in cerebral palsy, microcephaly, psychomotor delays, spastic tetraparesis and cortical vision impairment. The lawsuit alleged the defendants staff was negligent in failing to diagnose multiple chorioangiomas and anemia in utero, failing to designate the pregnancy as high-risk, failing to timely deliver C.M., failing to properly recognize fetal distress.
- $3,500,000 Settlement (Delaware County 2020): Infant was born with severe brain damage due to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy with spastic cerebral palsy, blindness, dystonia and hearing loss with the need for assistance with all activities of daily life. Lawsuit contended the defendants were negligent in failing to admit the plaintiff mother to the hospital in a timely manner, failing to properly assess the plaintiff’s preeclampsia, failing to perform a C-section on an emergent basis.
- $100,000 Settlement (Montgomery County 2019): Infant was diagnosed with cerebral palsy with cognitive impairment, and visual and speech impairment as a result of brain injury during childbirth. The lawsuit alleged that the defendant were negligent in failing to diagnose the mother with preeclampsia and perform an emergency C-section, which could have avoided the brain injury. The case settled for only $100,000.
- $2,000,000 Settlement (Montgomery County 2018): Infant allegedly suffered severe brain damage due to a lack of oxygen for almost twelve minutes during her delivery when her neck and the umbilical cord became entrapped by her mother’s cervix. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy with seizure activity, developmental delay, gross motor skills delay, speech delay and growth failure. The lawsuit contended the defendants were negligent in failing to ensure that a c-section promptly occurred, performing or permitting the performance of a rupture of membranes during a breech presentation and incomplete dilation which caused the fetus to descend down into the cervix and become entrapped, failing to promptly treat the fetus’s deterioration
Contact the Philadelphia Cerebral Palsy Attorneys at Miller & Zois
Miller & Zois is one of the most successful and well regarded birth injury firms in the mid-Atlantic region. We regularly handle birth injury cases in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania. Call us today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online case evaluation.