$58,000,000 Awarded to a Boy Who Suffers From Profound Brain Injuries and Episodes of Seizures

The appropriate use of a cesarean section can save a baby from being injured by a complicated birth or can prevent a situation from worsening. The delay of the section, on the other hand, can cause untold damage to the baby, including brain injuries such as the ones that Daniel D’Attilo suffered.

The Case of Daniel D’Attilo

Cathy D’Attilo was brought to Dr. Richard Viscarello for delivery on February 2, 2003, at the Stamford Hospital. According to Cathy, numerous oversights occurred that led to the condition of her son, Daniel. Dr. Viscarello apparently did not perform incisions on time to relieve the upper uterine area and failed to create space for an atraumatic delivery. The worst offense, however, took place a couple of days before the delivery, when Cathy visited Dr. Viscarello to address her amniotic fluid, which was leaking. The doctor sent Cathy home, rather than perform an emergency cesarean section.

This action caused a prolonged labor that affected the health of Daniel. Additionally, by the time the cesarean section was finally performed, Dr. Viscarello performed the surgery improperly, cutting off the oxygen supply from Daniel’s brain. When Daniel was eventually born, he was described as coming out limp, pale, breathless and seemingly lifeless. The baby was placed inside an incubator for the first 48 hours of his life at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. A week later, the family took Daniel to the Yale-New Haven Hospital for more testing.

Aftermath of Birth and Daniel’s Condition

The troubled birth led to the brain damage causing Daniel’s cerebral palsy. Due to his condition, Daniel must be fed through a tube, needs a wheelchair, and is incapable of walking or talking. The condition has also left him incontinent, requiring the use of diapers. The child needs constant care for his basic functions, such as bathroom use, dressing himself, and independent movement, but the family is hoping he can reach some milestones over time. Daniel attends St. Vincent’s Special Needs Services in Turnbull for physical therapy that may help him with some mobility issues in the future.

Lawsuit and Settlement

The D’Attilo family sued Dr. Viscarello and his clinic, Maternal Fetal Care, P.C. The plaintiffs pushed for Dr. Viscarello’s neglect of the cesarean section and the prolonged labor that resulted as the most significant factors behind the cause of Daniel’s cerebral palsy. There was also the argument that the doctors failed to inform the family of the potential dangers of the procedure. The defendants argued that the doctors performed appropriate care, and that the condition was caused by an infection that went undetected prior to the birth, and was, therefore, not the fault of the medical team. Furthermore, the defense argued that the court should strike out the complaint of bystander emotional distress. The court agreed, but still found Dr. Viscarello liable for negligence.

After an eight-year legal fight, the jury rewarded the D’Attilo family with a total of $58 million in 2011 – the largest malpractice suit in the state of Connecticut. The first $8 million will cover Daniel’s past and future medical bills, and the remaining $50 million will help ease the family’s pain and distress. The family says the money means that he’ll be taken care of, though the appeals process means that it’s likely they will not see any of the settlement money any time soon. Daniel’s accumulated medical bills up to the trial ranged around $500,000. The family’s one-story ranch by West Rocks Road is currently in danger of foreclosure.

Prolonged Labor

In this case, Daniel’s cerebral palsy was caused by the doctor’s refusal to perform a cesarean section, despite the mother’s amniotic fluids already leaking, which is a common sign that the mother is ready for labor. Prolonged labor occurs when the baby is not born between 18 to 24 hours after contractions start. Delayed labor poses brain injury risks for the baby, such as

  • Reduction of oxygen levels
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Abnormal substances in amniotic fluid
  • Infection

Besides the failure of a timely cesarean section, prolonged labor is caused by several birth abnormalities, most of them linked to potential brain damage. These birth anomalies include:

  • The baby being too big or small to move through the canal
  • An abnormal position, such as a breech birth
  • Weak contractions

In addition, the treatment of delayed labor can also bring other risk factors that lead to brain injury and cerebral palsy. Some of the dangerous treatments for the labor include:

  • Using forceps for extraction, which create pressure on the baby when misused
  • Administering drugs that affect contractions such as Pitocin and Cytotec
  • Making improper incisions during the cesarean section or other surgical procedures
The Case for Legal Action

Cerebral palsy is a painful condition that affects the victim’s life permanently. When the condition is preventable and caused by carelessness, a family can seek appropriate legal counsel to discuss reimbursement for medical treatments, loss of productivity, and other costs.