Court Upholds Settlement of Compensation for Oxygen Deprivation at Birth

The Philadelphia Superior Court has upheld a $32.8 million settlement of compensation for oxygen deprivation at birth awarded to a six-year-old girl.

On 14th November 2008, Leslie Proffitt gave birth to daughter – Lillian – by an emergency cesarean section that had been necessitated by a sudden drop in the fetal heartrate. However, a significant delay in escalating the situation to Leslie´s attending physician had resulted in Lillian being deprived of oxygen in the womb.

One of the two nurses responsible for the delay – Christine Winter – only had six months practical experience and had never been trained in the procedures to follow when a fetal heartrate monitor registers a sudden drop. The second nurse – Lana Jones-Sandy – had attempted to help Winter during the emergency, and did not have the thought to advise Leslie´s attending physician of the situation.

Lillian was born limp and blue-gray in color. She was resuscitated and transferred to the Children´s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she was diagnosed with brain damage due to being deprived of oxygen. Due to the lack of oxygen prior to her delivery, Lillian is now a spastic quadriplegic and requires full-time care.

Leslie – on her daughter´s behalf – claimed compensation for oxygen deprivation at birth against the Phoenixville Hospital as employer of the two nurses. The hospital denied liability for Lillian´s injuries and the case was heard by a jury in January 2013 at the Chester County Court.

The jury found in Lillian´s favor and awarded her $32.8 million compensation for oxygen deprivation at birth. However, the Phoenixville Hospital appealed the verdict – claiming that the delay in escalating the emergency situation happened at the beginning of the delivery process, and not at the end when Lillian suffered brain damage due to being deprived of oxygen.

The appeal was heard recently by the Philadelphia Superior Court, where a three-judge panel upheld the verdict of the Chester County jury. In their written verdict, Judge Paula Francisco Ott wrote: “Phoenixville Hospital fails to recognize that the delay, no matter when it occurred in the delivery process, subjected Lillian to the additional 10-13 minutes of oxygen deprivation that ultimately led to her injuries.”