$43,000,000 For a Woman Who Developed Cerebral Palsy Due to Oxygen Deprivation and Meconium Aspiration

The deprivation of oxygen is one of the leading causes of cerebral palsy. There are several factors that can result in a lack of oxygen, but one of the rarer ones is meconium aspiration syndrome, a condition that is usually harmless once it is properly treated. Tiffany Busone was not so fortunate, and her bout with meconium aspiration complications and left her with cerebral palsy.

The Case of Tiffany Busone

Tiffany Busone was born on July 15, 1984 at the Bellevue Women’s Hospital. J. Tracy Busone delivered Tiffany in what started out as a normal procedure. Complications emerged when meconium, a fecal material that develops on the fetus’ intestines, was present in the baby’s amniotic fluid. A neonatal resuscitation team was not present at the time and there was no equipment at hand. The special delivery nurses arrived after the baby was born, but they were unable to intubate the baby because they lacked proper training, a laryngoscope, and endotracheal tubes. The nurses also could not provide oxygen to the baby because their equipment was malfunctioning.

The neonatologist, who was only called for after the delivery, arrived 15 minutes later. Tiffany lacked an airway until the doctor was able to find one over 20 minutes after his arrival. The oxygen deprivation created the brain injury that caused Tiffany’s cerebral palsy.

Tiffany’s Condition

Due to her brain condition, Tiffany lacks motor skills and is only able to walk short distances. For longer travel, she requires a wheelchair, as well as home health aides for some of her functions. More recently, the young woman uses a mobility assist dog named Lenny to help her with most of her tasks. Tiffany is unable to work to support herself.

Despite Tiffany’s hardship, she continues to push herself in life. Tiffany’s cerebral palsy left her above-average intelligence intact, so she has been able to earn three university degrees, her latest one a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota.

Trial and Settlement

J. Tracy Busone first took legal action against Bellevue in February of 1987 for the injuries that Tiffany suffered at the time of birth. In 1994, a settlement for $575,000 was reached with the obstetrician. J. Tracy later decided to continue with the lawsuit, as she insisted the lack of proper care and equipment during her daughter’s meconium aspiration caused her neonatal asphyxia and her cerebral palsy. On May 1st, 1998, Bellevue appealed to dismiss the complaint due to J. Tracy’s inability to retain her attorney and respond to Bellevue’s motion. The Supreme Court delayed the trial, but eventually denied the defense’s motion on January 22, 1999.

During more delays and complications, Tiffany became involved in her own case. Finally, on October 8, 2009, the Supreme Court found Bellevue liable for Tiffany’s cerebral palsy. Tiffany was awarded $43.5 million. The money is specifically split into $20 million for Tiffany’s home aides, $15 million for future pain and suffering, and $6 million for previous pain and suffering, with the remaining money planned for use on medical expenses and loss of earnings. This case is cited as the largest personal injury case in the history of upstate New York.

Meconium Aspiration Syndrome

The specific cause for Tiffany’s condition is meconium aspiration syndrome. Meconium usually develops in the baby’s intestines before birth, and the baby excretes it after birth. This syndrome occurs when stress causes the fetus to release the meconium early, which mixes with amniotic fluid. The baby breathes this mixture, causing harm.

Impact of Meconium on Baby

Meconium aspiration by itself is relatively harmless once treated. This condition can create complications when ignored, however. Meconium in a baby’s lungs causes inflammation and infection. Meconium aspiration can lead to other complications, such as:

  • Blockage of airways, which leads to lung overexpansion and rupture
  • Increased risk of pulmonary hypertension and restricted blood flow
  • Deprivation of oxygen to the baby's brain, creating brain damage
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Meconium Aspiration

Meconium aspiration is capable of being diagnosed and treated. Some of the most common symptoms of meconium aspiration are:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Irregular breathing
  • Limpness
  • Blue or pale skin color

A doctor can detect the condition by using a stethoscope to find disturbed breathing, a blood gas test to examine levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, or an X-ray to see material in the baby’s lungs.

Treatment of Meconium Aspiration

Once meconium is detected, the doctor may use a tube to suction the substance from the upper airway, then the nose, mouth, and throat until it is completely gone. If the baby’s breathing issues continue, the doctor may use a bag and mask or a tube in the windpipe to deliver oxygen and inflate the lungs.

Taking Legal Action

Cerebral palsy is a devastating condition that will affect the child and the rest of the family. Families that suspect the condition was caused by malpractice are recommended to contact legal assistance to discuss legal options.