Martin & Jones was asked by the parents of a little girl with cerebral palsy to investigate the medical care she received during the first two days after she was born. She had developed meningitis while in the hospital and suffered severe brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy.
Our investigation revealed that there were warning signs of an infection in this newborn that were ignored. Within the first 90 minutes after she was born, it was noted on four occasions that she had a fever. Newborns are very susceptible to infection, and these temperature elevations should have led to very careful monitoring, but that did not happen.
Approximately 16 hours later, the baby girl began to show signs of distress including grunting respirations, an elevated heart rate and a change in her color from pink to grey. These changes alarmed the newborn nursery nurse caring for the newborn. This nurse, who had been a nurse for less than two years, was so concerned that she took the baby girl for evaluation by a neonatal care specialist in this large hospital.The nurse also told the parents that she was specifically concerned about an infection. Unfortunately, the baby was not evaluated by a doctor, but instead by a neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP). By the time the baby was examined by this NNP, oxygen had been given and her condition had improved. The NNP told the parents not to worry, and sent the little girl back to the parents’ room.
One of the experts retained by Martin & Jones was the author of the preeminent textbook on infections in newborn, Infectious Diseases of the Fetus and Newborn Infant. This expert testified that newborns are very susceptible to infection. Therefore, if there is any sign of infection, a blood culture should be done, and this can be done by a “heel stick” which is perfectly safe. Also, while waiting for the blood culture results, antibiotics should be given. Sadly, even though the baby’s nurse was specifically concerned about an infection, the NNP did not do a blood culture and did not prescribe antibiotics.
During the 12 hours after that evaluation, the baby girl’s condition continued to deteriorate while she was being kept in a “respite nursery,” where two non-specialist nurses could be watching up to 20 babies. The notes indicated that the baby refused to feed, was grimacing, would scream during attempts to feed, had an elevated heart rate, eventually became inconsolable and then became to whimper. Only when the baby began to exhibit seizures 12 hours after being evaluated by the neonatal nurse practitioner was the decision made to investigate for an infection. A blood culture was finally taken, but still antibiotics were not administered for nearly three hours. By that time it was too late. The little girl had a full blown brain infection (meningitis) and suffered permanent brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy. She cannot walk, cannot feed herself or bathe, and still cannot stand or sit without assistance.
Martin & Jones retained three physicians who were experts in neonatology, three neonatal nurse practitioners, four registered nurses, two physicians specializing in pediatric infectious disease, a physician specializing in pediatric neuroradiologist, a life care planner and an economist.
The defendants retained 11 experts, each of whom was deposed by Martin & Jones. At the conclusion of those depositions and shortly before trial, the case settled for $9,000,000.