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Punitive damages may be awarded in birth injury cases

A jury just awarded $73.2M to the family of a 5-year-old boy who suffered oxygen deprivation at birth. According to court filings, the boy now suffers permanent brain damage due to errors made at birth.

Various factors indicated that the delivery may be high risk. The mother was 36-years-old and diabetic, and should have received a series of ultrasound examinations during her pre-natal visits because she was at risk of delivering an “unusually large” baby, the complaint asserts. The mother asserted that failing to prepare for the risking delivery was negligent. At the time of delivery, the infant weighed 11.5 pounds.

The lawsuit asserted that the doctor failed to take adequate measurements, failed to provide additional testing and failed to follow the recommendations of specialists advising further evaluations and did not did not recommend a cesarean section. At the time of birth, the child’s shoulders were too wide to pass through the birth canal and became stuck. He spent 10 minutes without oxygen, until the doctor applied a “vacuum extraction device” to the boy’s head and “forcibly yanked”. The child sustained a brachial plexus injury and hypoxic ischemic brain damage. The mother sustained severe lacerations.

Both mother and child received damage awards, with the majority - $40 million – awarded in punitive damages.

In California, punitive damages may be awarded in particularly egregious medical malpractice and birth injury cases.

For more information, or if you or your child was harmed due to medical malpractice, please contact the experienced Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyers at Bostwick & Peterson, LLP for an immediate consultation.


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