$13,900,000 Awarded to a Girl Who Suffered Brain Damage When Doctors Delayed Performing a C-Section

The swift and decisive implementation of a cesarean section can make a difference in a delayed labor. The procedure allows the baby to find faster treatment for any issue occurring at birth, and prevents all risks associated with delayed births. A delayed cesarean section, on the other hand, can bring catastrophic effects on babies, such as in the case of Haley Cobb.

The Birth of Haley Cobb

Debra Cobb’s due date was on December 26, 1999. When Debra missed her due date, Dr. Tara Shipman had her scheduled to attend Trumbull Memorial Hospital for a no-stress test on January 3, 2000. The test revealed the baby’s low heart rate and a nurse brought her concerns to Dr. Shipman. Shipman recommended the use of Pitocin. Debra was kept in the hospital to induce labor. Despite the increasingly alarming results from fetal monitoring that displayed the baby’s decreasing heart rate, Dr. Shipman refused to perform the cesarean section.

Haley was born on January 4, 2000 at Trumbull as a result of delayed delivery. The baby was born in distress, with breathing issues, no reflexes, black feet, and a limp, pale body. Dr. Shipman handed the baby to the nurses and called for resuscitation efforts. Haley was reintubated by the transport team from Tod Children’s Hospital before being taken to the facility.

Haley’s Condition

Haley was diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or brain damage caused by lack of blood flow and oxygen. The baby was later additionally diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Haley is cognitively impaired and is incapable of controlling her limbs or performing any meaningful daily activities, such as eating and dressing. Haley also has some mental impairments, but she knows the alphabet and can count to 50. Haley will require 24-hour care every day for the rest of her life.

Trial and Settlement

Debra sued Dr. Shipman for medical malpractice, as well as Dr. Edmundo B. Salero, a physician who attempted to resuscitate Haley after her delivery. The focus of the lawsuit was on Dr. Shipman’s refusal to perform a cesarean section at any point of the procedure despite continued signs of distress, choosing to use potentially dangerous drugs such as Pitocin to accelerate the labor. The defense argued that Haley’s brain damage already took place before the delivery was made, but there was no concrete evidence to prove that claim.

On October 21, 2010, the jury sided with Debra and Haley Cobb, and ordered that the family be awarded $13.9 million, a record payout in Trumbull court history. Specifically, the Cobb parents were awarded $1.8 million, while Haley was given $12.1 million. These payments were calculated to account for Haley’s care by her parents, as well as long after they are gone. The Cobbs previously reached an undisclosed settlement with the estate of Salero and Trumbull Memorial Hospital, since Salero passed away sometime during the legal case.

Delayed Birth

Haley’s condition was caused by her birth being delayed several days after her due date, as well as the failure to perform an emergency cesarean section while exhibiting signs of distress. Prolonged labor occurs when the baby is not delivered between 18 and 24 hours after the start of contractions. The delayed birth can pose numerous risks of brain damage to the baby, such as:

  • Uterine infections
  • Abnormal substances in the amniotic fluid, such as meconium
  • Abnormal heart rates in the baby
  • Low oxygen levels in the baby

Delayed labor can be caused by the lack of a timely cesarean section , but there are other factors that create the condition, including:

  • Inadequate size for a baby to pass through the canal
  • Weak or slow contractions
  • Abnormal fetal positions (not head-down)

The treatment of prolonged labor also brings its own risks related to brain injury and cerebral palsy. These treatments may increase the possibility of brain injury, and include:

  • The use of forceps or monitoring equipment, which can place pressure on the baby’s fragile head
  • The lack of or improper performance of a cesarean section
  • The misuse of labor-inducing drugs like Cytotec and Pitocin, which increase the possibility of oxygen deprivation in the baby

Haley’s prolonged birth long after her due date, the misuse of Pitocin and other drugs, and Dr. Shipman’s refusal to perform an emergency cesarean section, despite the numerous signs of distress, ultimately caused Haley’s avoidable case of cerebral palsy.

Seeking Legal Settlement

Those who suffer from cerebral palsy will endure a lifetime of pain, suffering, and added expenses that bring additional hardship on them and their families. If a patient’s cerebral palsy was the result of medical malpractice or negligence during the delivery process, the family should consult a lawyer who specializes in cerebral palsy cases.