On April 26, 2022, Maples Nix & Diesselhorst attorneys Glendell Nix, Jacob Diesselhorst, Shea Bracken, and Brenda Doroteo, along with local counsel Malachi Daws and Judson Daws, obtained a substantial plaintiff’s verdict in Jefferson County, Texas (Beaumont) after a 3-week jury trial before the Honorable District Judge Justin Sanderson. The verdict was obtained on behalf of Michael Weaver, a minor child who suffered permanent hypoxic brain damage during his labor and delivery at The Medical Center of Southeast Texas (MCSET) several years ago.
It was alleged that Michael’s hypoxic ischemic brain injury occurred during his mother, Patricia Grinold’s, labor at Medical Center of Southeast Texas (MCSET) due to the negligence/gross negligence of the hospital, its labor and delivery nurse team, and the obstetrician, Christopher Serrano, M.D. Specifically, it was alleged that MCSET misused the drug Pitocin in violation of the its own policies, which caused the mother to suffer a complication of labor augmentation known as “uterine hyperstimulation” – where contractions occur too frequently and/or last too long – which prevents a fetus from having enough rest time between contractions to replenish its oxygen supply.
Plaintiff alleged this misuse of Pitocin for several hours caused Baby Michael’s oxygen reserves to deplete, which ultimately led to his heart rate dropping into fetal bradycardia (a slow heart rate which decreases blood flow and oxygen to the baby). Then, although Ms. Grinolds was moved to the operating room (OR) for a C-Section delivery during the bradycardia, once in the OR, the baby was not timely delivered and, instead, orders were given to initiate pushing. This action only made matters worse, yet the C-Section was still not timely performed as Dr. Serrano made the decision to leave the OR and go to deliver another baby. Although the MCSET nurses, including the charge nurse, knew this course of action was unsafe and that Baby Michael was likely suffering oxygen deprivation, they did not initiate the hospital’s chain of command to advocate for an expeditious C-Section. Finally, after more than 20 minutes, Dr. Serrano returned to the OR and performed an emergency C-Section. By then, it was too late though as Michael had already suffered brain injury due to the 30-minute fetal bradycardia and an additional hour of other non-reassuring signs on the fetal monitoring strip – including recurrent decelerations, fetal tachycardia, and absent fetal heart rate variability.
At the time of his birth, Michael was limp, blue, was not breathing or moving, and had a low heart rate (bradycardia). He required aggressive resuscitation and was immediately intubated and placed on a ventilator. Blood drawn from his umbilical cord showed severe metabolic acidosis (a pH of 6.8 and Base Excess of -20) due to prolonged lack of oxygen. Michael was diagnosed with asphyxia and urgently transferred by medical helicopter to the NICU at Memorial Herman Children’s Hospital in Houston, where he met the diagnostic criteria for therapeutic hypothermia (head cooling) treatment to try and prevent his acute brain injury from swelling and worsening. There, he was later diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) on MRI.
Fortunately, the head cooling treatment Michael received at Memorial Herman was beneficial and, although he had already suffered acute, near-total hypoxic brain injury, his ultimate neurological outcome was not as severe as it could have been. But that good news should in no way minimize the severity of Michael’s neurological deficits and prognosis due to his brain injury.
Since his discharge from the NICU, Michael has been diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. He has problems with balance, coordination, and motor skills – which effect his ability to walk, talk, and perform most of his basic activities of daily living. Michael also has cognitive and intellectual deficits which, combined with his motor deficits, negatively affect his educational and social abilities, achievement, and development.
Although he is able to attend normal school, he receives special education services and accommodations, with no requirement that he pass State achievement tests to complete each grade. While Michael should graduate high school, Michael will likely never be able to obtain a driver’s license, will likely never be capable of long-term gainful employment in the competitive job market, and he will most likely never be able to live independently as an adult due to his permanent neurological disabilities.
After a 3-week trial and the Texas medical malpractice birth injury jury deliberating for over 6 hours, 10 of the 12 jurors found in favor of Michael and returned a verdict against the hospital for $11,997,525.00, which included:
$1,719,525.00 for his future loss of earnings;
$200,000.00 for his future medical costs; and
$2,080,000.00 for his future pain and suffering.
The total compensatory damages awarded to Michael were $3,999,525.
However, because of the Texas cap on pain and suffering damages, the total compensatory damages for pain and suffering of over $2 million awarded by the jury will be reduced to $250,000.00. Thus, the total recoverable compensatory damages are $2,169,525.00.
Ten of the 12 jurors assigned 60% liability to MCSET and 40% liability to Dr. Serrano (who settled the claims against him before trial for the minimal amount of his medical malpractice insurance coverage). In Texas, because more than 50% of liability was assigned to the hospital, MCSET is liable for all of the $2,169,525.00.
The same 10 of 12 jurors also found that MCSET was grossly negligent and acted with willful and wanton disregard for the health and safety of Michael, and awarded $8,000,000.00 in punitive damages against the hospital. However, because Texas’s tort reform laws require a unanimous jury to recover punitive damages, Michael will not receive any of the punitive damages award. The jury also awarded $8,000,000.00 punitive damages against Dr. Serrano for his gross negligence, but because of the settlement with him, none of that amount is recoverable.
If you or a loved one have suffered serious harm as a result of medical negligence in Texas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Texas medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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