In this case the mother experienced a full-term normal pregnancy. While she was in labor, changes in the electronic fetal monitoring strip indicated that the umbilical cord was probably becoming compressed, interrupting the flow of oxygen to the baby’s brain. When this happens, minutes matter. If lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain persists, permanent injury will occur.
Despite interventions (changes in maternal position, intravenous fluids, mask oxygen to the mom) to relieve the cord compression, the baby’s abnormal heart rate patterns persisted and then the heart rate slowed into a bradycardia. The doctor was there, watching.
We contended that the doctor needed to order a C-section delivery, or at least take the mom to the operating room to prepare for emergent delivery if necessary. Instead, the doctor and the nurses stood by and watched, apparently anticipating a spontaneous vaginal delivery.
With the baby still high in the pelvis, C-section became the only option for saving the baby from permanent injury. After many crucial minutes went by and the doctor left the room to attend to an uncomplicated birth, she finally ordered a C-section and the baby was delivered.
But the C-section was too late. Upon delivery, the baby, Elizabeth, showed no respiratory effort and required resuscitation. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at approximately 18 months of age. She will never be able to work and will require life-long attendant care.
Elizabeth was 12-years-old when we took the case. Another Washington firm had turned down the case, probably because they were concerned that the limitations period had run. We dug deeper into the facts and the applicable law. We decided we could make an argument that the limitations period—usually three years from the date of the injury—had not run.