Common Birth Injuries
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 7 of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. suffer birth injuries. Cerebral palsy, which is often linked to birth injury brain damage, occurs in 1.5 to 4 children per every 1,000 births -- astonishing statistics. Attorney Beth Teixeira specializes in cerebral palsy cases. “We know identifiable risk factors in cerebral palsy injuries, such as fetal heart tracing where you’ll see the heart rate go way up or way down sometimes for prolonged periods, which can indicate that the baby is not tolerating labor well,” says Teixeira.
“We often see Pitocin used -- a drug that imitates natural labor and birth by causing the uterus to contract. However, Pitocin comes with a black box warning and with increased risk factors for both Mom and baby.” Extremely intense contractions can cause intense pain for the mother, and she risks uterine rupture, postpartum hemorrhage and more. Pitocin can put the baby at risk of brain damage and even fetal death. This drug can be used effectively if guidelines are used, but too often Teixeira has examined medical records and determined that doctors and nurses sometimes don’t recognize warning signs. “If nobody is doing anything about these warning signs a baby can have a brain injury that can manifest in cerebral palsy,” explains Teixeira. “There are currently no known cures for cerebral palsy and this must be taken into consideration when determining the cost of medical care.” (See settlements below involving Pitocin.)
Another common birth injury leading to long-term effects is Erb’s palsy, which limits the use of the arm, shoulder, and hand. According to Cleveland Clinic, approximately 12,000 babies born each year develop Erb’s palsy due to an injury at birth, another staggering statistic. “I have litigated over 40 Erbs’ palsy cases in the past five years alone and the vast majority have been successful,” says attorney Sean O’Neill, “Truthfully, medical malpractice can be difficult to litigate, often because nobody wants to think that doctors are wrong. That’s why it’s critical to have an experienced medical malpractice attorney, someone who knows how you frame a case – this is so important to get the compensation you deserve.”
O’Neill mainly focuses on brachial plexus injuries. These injuries at birth, such as vacuum delivery, can result in Erb’s Palsy -- a common injury of the upper brachial plexus nerve -- or Klumpke’s palsy, which isn’t as common and affects the lower brachial plexus. The former causes numbness and loss of motion around the shoulder and an inability to flex the elbow, lift an arm or bring objects to the mouth, according to Johns Hopkins Medical Center. “There are recognized risk factors for shoulder dystocia deliveries,” explains O’Neill. “All doctors and labor and delivery nurses are trained on maneuvers to deliver the baby safely when a shoulder dystocia occurs. If they fail to identify these risk factors and utilize these maneuvers, the baby can suffer a permanent nerve injury which clearly everyone wants to avoid.”
Given that almost 1 out of every 3 babies in the U.S are delivered via Cesarean section, C-section injuries are common—both to baby and mother. Unfortunately, Teixeira points out that many women with low incomes rely on Medi-Cal, which typically reimburses hospitals at lower rates than private insurance disincentivizing providers from performing C-sections. “Many tragedies could have been avoided if health insurance didn’t dictate the level of care you may or may not receive,” she says. “Sometimes we will go after the insurance provider if necessary services have been denied. If a Health Plan or a hospital institutes financial incentives not to have a C-section…we look very carefully to understand the big picture and also keep in mind that every case is unique – there is no cookie-cutter formula.” (The California Health Care Foundation says that Medi-Cal pays for more than 50% of all births in California.)
Litigating Financial Compensation
Both Beth Teixeira and Sean O’Neill stress that it’s imperative to know how birth injuries will develop over time and the tools that will be needed for the rest of their clients’ lives in order to get sufficient financial compensation and relief. “We need a solid understanding from birth of how a baby will be at age 20 and 30 and beyond,” says O’Neill. “We have at our disposal the best experts in the world [see below] so when we litigate your case, we present the entire picture and ensure compensation for the rest of the baby’s life. For instance, how to use the toilet with one hand; how to work and deal with handicap bias. And we take into consideration overuse syndrome – such as how Erb’s palsy affects your good arm. We think about all these things and explain them to a jury.”
Birth Injury Settlements
$10 million settlement
Beth Teixeira’s client was a first-time mother. She went into labor and her doctor prescribed Pitocin to facilitate her contractions. The baby’s heart rate increased with the drug and became tachycardia but neither the doctor nor the nurse discontinued the Pitocin, violating the standard of care and hospital policy. Instead, despite the fact that mom was already having adequate contractions and the baby’s heart rate was not stable, the nurse kept increasing the Pitocin. Neither the nurse nor the overnight coverage obstetrician took any action to intervene and address the baby’s distress. The baby was ultimately born with Apgars scores of 1 and 2 at 1 and 5 minutes of life and had to be aggressively resuscitated. She is now 5 years old with cerebral palsy, cognitive delays and gastrostomy tube dependence.
$9 million settlement
Another first-time mother went into labor and was admitted by her treating obstetrician who prescribed Pitocin to facilitate her contractions. During the night, the baby’s heart rate showed some distress while on the Pitocin. The overnight nurse never alerted the treating physician to these overnight events. In the morning, the nurse began to increase the Pitocin despite the fact the baby’s heart rate was showing more signs of distress. The nurse failed to tell the treating physician of the worsening condition for hours. When she finally did, the nurse failed to turn off the Pitocin and failed to timely prepare her patient for the Cesarean section ordered by the obstetrician. The obstetrician was also significantly delayed in coming to the hospital to deliver the baby. The baby was born with no heart rate or respiratory effort and without spontaneous movement. He had to be resuscitated and now has cerebral palsy with lifelong disability at 2 years old.
$25.6 million Settlement
Beth Teixeira helped her 9-year-old brain-injured client obtain a $25.6 million arbitration award against Kaiser as a result of medical malpractice from their care of him as an infant. This is believed to be one of the largest arbitration awards secured through the Kaiser arbitration system in California.
Sadly, these injuries and countless more could have been prevented with proper care. Having children of their own, Teixeira and O’Neill provide their clients empathy along with legal experience. “Beth has a unique insight; she has the benefit of being in a mother’s shoes,” says O’Neill. “She goes a long way regarding how a case is evaluated and connects with mom. Epidural not working properly? Beth knows.” O’Neill has two young kids and he understands a parent perspective post-delivery. “Sure, I’ve been through a pre-natal course and have had the usual stresses and worries as a father, but Beth and I have this in common: Our ultimate goal is to make our clients’ lives better.”
“I try to get to get to know my client and I’m always available to answer their questions,” says Teixeira. “I don’t want my client to have even one question in their head about their case – I want them to know they can always come to me for an answer.”
Birth Injury and Medical Malpractice Experts
Stalwart Law Group has a level of expertise that sets them apart from other law firms. Their team of birth injury lawyers is led by Steven Heimberg, a medical doctor and an attorney recognized as the #1 medical malpractice lawyer in the U.S. And he has delivered babies. Also on the team is a nurse reviewer trained with deliveries. “We try to develop a well-rounded team to give the best results for our clients,” says O’Neill. “I used to defend doctors so I understand how the other side defends a case and I know the insurance companies' tactics-- I have been in the room.” On the other hand, Teixeira has only been a plaintiff attorney so she knows how it works from the other side, to have that first-hand information. They’ve got you covered.
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Elizabeth “Beth” Teixeira is a trial lawyer specializing in medical malpractice, personal injury, medical device liability and wrongful death cases for plaintiffs. Beth’s favorite part of any trial or arbitration is guiding her clients and their families through their story of how their lives have been irrevocably changed by their injury or the death of a loved one. Her hands-on approach to damages throughout litigation helps her clients achieve the results they need to move forward with their lives.