In April 2012, a woman 39 weeks into her pregnancy began to experience severe abdominal pains. She was immediately rushed to County-USC. There, the woman spent 14 hours waiting in the labor and delivery unit. Not once did an obstetrician come by to give her an examination. She was eventually discharged.
The woman remained out of the hospital for only 12 hours before she was again transported to the unit. This time, doctors determined that her uterus had ruptured. Although an emergency C-section was performed, it was too late to prevent the baby from suffering severe brain damage.
As a result of the birth injury, the boy cannot eat or even breathe on his own. He will require long-term care and was placed in a facility that could immediately provide the assistance that he needed. The woman filed a birth injury lawsuit, which Los Angeles County has agreed to settle for $7.5 million.
In this case, the settlement will help provide the necessary funding for this family to stay together. The mother will be able to move herself, the baby boy and her two other young children into a house that is adequate for the injured child. Funds from the settlement will also be scheduled in an annuity that will help provide medical care that the child will need long into the future.
The county’s health services department has received criticism that staff treated this case differently than others due to the fact that the woman was homeless. That may be a separate issue. Although it is easy to focus on this issue, the truth is that many families in California do not have the funds to pay for the care that is necessary in these situations. A medical malpractice trauma can cause serious financial issues for almost anyone.
Settlements and jury awards in these types of situations do compensate individuals for the more intangible losses that they suffer — like a healthy childhood. However, as noted above, there are real measurable financial damages as well, like medical bills, that a civil personal injury lawsuit can help cover.
Source: LA Times, “L.A. County to pay $7.5 million in childbirth malpractice case,” Abby Sewell, Nov. 6, 2013