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California Judge Awards $9.6M Award in Birth Injury Case

attorney speaking to juryA medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Dr. Paul Davainis has been resolved in Sacramento federal court in favor of the plaintiff. The lawsuit alleged that Davainis negligently waited too long to perform a Cesarean delivery on his patient, despite evidence that her unborn baby was in fetal distress. On October 28, U.S. District Court Judge John Mendez awarded $9.6 million in compensation to the now three-year-old child, who suffered irreversible brain injury at birth. The plaintiffs’ lawyer confirmed that his client was also awarded $250,000 for her emotional trauma during the childbirth. The botched delivery took place at Banner-Lassen Hospital in Susanville, according to court documents.

Due to her brain damage, the little girl suffers from seizures, will never be able to speak, walk or take care of herself. She also suffers from visual impairment and relies on a feeding tube.

The multi-million dollar judgment will ensure the family has the financial means to ensure their disabled daughter receives the proper care, special medical equipment, medicines and therapy she will need for the remainder of her life.

Delayed C-section results in fetal brain injury

According to the birth injury lawsuit, Dr. Paul Davainis failed to order and perform a C-section in a timely manner on the mother, even though it became clear that the woman would not be able to go through with a vaginal birth, given the baby’s worrisome heart decelerations.

Fetal heart monitoring strips are used in delivery rooms today to help detect signs of fetal compromise. Sudden accelerations, decelerations or irregular heartbeats are an early warning sign that the fetus may not be getting adequate oxygen supply, and is therefore at greater risk of traumatic injury. Obstetric emergencies such as stalled labors, or those complicated by umbilical cord compression or shoulder dystocia, call for prompt measures to deliver the child quickly.  Failure to do so can lead to permanent brain damage or death of the baby.

Labor complications may necessitate Cesarean delivery

Other malpractice claims regarding birth injuries have cited complications from Pitocin-induced labors. Pitocin is frequently used to speed up labor and can cause unnaturally strong contractions that are less than two minutes apart. These strong and frequent contractions hyper-stimulate the uterus, and can affect the placenta’s ability to replenish its oxygen supply to the baby.

Other risk factors that may increase the need for C-section delivery include:

  • Maternal obesity
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Chronic hypertension, or preeclampsia
  • Placental problems
  • Macrosemic baby leading to cephalopelvic disproportion
  • Breech presentation
  • Advanced maternal age (age 35 and older)
  • Prior C-section delivery
  • Placental abruption
  • Failed attempts with vacuum extraction or forceps
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Multiple births – twins or triplets

In sum, a C-section may become medically necessary during the course of a natural childbirth if there are concerns with the baby’s heart rate, if the head is too large to pass through the pelvis, or if the fetal oxygen supply has been interrupted by a prolapsed umbilical cord or placental abruption.

Health care providers are under obligation to have the training, expertise and ability to safely address any labor complications to ensure the wellbeing of both mother and child. When this duty is breached, affected families may have grounds for malpractice litigation.

  1. Washington Times, Judge awards $9.6M to child in medical malpractice case

  2. CNN, What doctors don't tell you about C-sections