Birth Injury Claims

Roger Johnson discusses his experience with birth injury claims and the basics of the types of cases and medical terminology.

Our firm handles a number of birth injury claims. In fact, our firm had the claim, we had the privilege of handling, the claim for a little fella with cerebral palsy a few years ago, and got a verdict in Green County, Missouri for almost $5 million. We took that case up to the court of appeals, because at the time, there was a cap that the legislature had imposed, to take away the rights of the jury and the people who are citizens in the state, for a jury determination of what dollar value should be on it, and the Missouri Supreme Court declared the cap unconstitutional in the case that we were handling. As a consequence of that, and even before that, we had handled a lot of birth injury claims, and some of them actually are baby death claims. Now, I’ll tell you, one pet peeve that I have had over the years I’ve done this is that many lawyers will call these bad baby cases. I don’t call them bad baby cases. I think that’s offensive and insulting. These aren’t bad babies. These are babies that have been injured, typically, because of neglect on the part of the healthcare profession. There’s two major categories of birth injury claims that we’re looking at. One category is where there’s been a major brain injury occur, and maybe even death occur, because oxygen is not getting to the baby’s brain. The fancy medical term is called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. The cool thing about where we are today in medicine is, when a person is getting ready to have a baby, and I mean, their whole world is going to change. They’re excited about it. Their dreams, their plans, their hopes wrapped up in this little baby that’s going to come. They go into the hospital because they’re having labor occur, and they have this thing called a fetal heart monitor put on them. It’s not hurt. It doesn’t hurt anything. It’s just a belt that goes around the belly, and there’s a little machine that’s over to the side, and for people that are having a baby for the first time, or even when they’ve had them a number of times, they’re able to see on the screen, the baby’s heart rate and the mother’s contractions as they’re occurring. That device is the way the baby can cry out for help. It’s the only way the baby can cry out for help. And how the baby cries out for help, as the studies have shown over the years, is the heart rate will begin to show certain patterns when there’s a problem that’s occurring. There’s a lot of fancy medical terms that go along with this, decelerations, accelerations, variability, but what happens is people who are in the medical profession are trained to be looking out for those, and if they’re not heeding warning signs, or the baby calling out for help, and enough time goes by, there can be oxygen deprivation to the brain, that results in cerebral palsy, or results in seizures, or results in strokes to the brain, or other major problems that the baby then deals with, sometimes for the rest of their life, and sometimes that life is short because of how catastrophic that oxygen deprivation has been. So the fetal heart monitor is a means to warn doctors and nurses who are being attentive that there’s a problem that may need to lead to an emergency C-section or some type of intervention medically, to correct it. When that’s not done, and too much time passes, and the baby is harmed, then that leads to a right to bring a birth-injury-based medical malpractice claim.