Our law firm handles cerebral palsy lawsuits in Baltimore. There is confusion about CP lawsuits and about cerebral palsy in general. This post hopes to help some clear up some confusion and get a clear picture of the landscape of cerebral palsy in general and the litigation landscape of in CP birth injury suits.
Some lawyers and defense experts in birth injury cases want the jury to think the cerebral palsy is a disease. Cerebral palsy is not a disease. Rather CP is a group of disorders in which the brain is unable to control muscle movement, coordination, and balance. The term cerebral references the brain and palsy is a medical term that refers to paralysis or weakness. CP is caused by a particular type of damage to the brain during developmental stages.
CP and its physical symptoms can vary significantly. Individuals with relatively minor cases of CP might just walk with a slight limp or awkward gait. I have one friend who has CP who got off to a tough start but does really well and, at this point, no one knows she has CP. A severe case of CP might leave the person completely unable to walk at all.
CP is thankfully not a progressive disorder, meaning the symptoms do not get worse over time. In addition to physical movement limitations, most people with CP also have other related conditions such as mental impairment, seizures, vision & hearing impairment or speech problems.
Different Types of Cerebral Palsy
There are several different types or categories of CP. The type of CP is generally based on the main type of movement or muscle control disorder involved. The 4 primary types of Cerebral Palsy are:
The most prevalent type of cerebral palsy is spastic CP. About 81% of all cerebral palsy cases are classified as Spastic CP. Spastic CP is characterized by disability muscle stiffness in a particular part of the child’s body.
- Diplegia: With this Spastic CP subtype, the muscle stiffness usually occurs only in the legs and lower body. The upper body is typically not impacted. Children who are afflicted with spastic diplegia CP are not able to walk normally because the stiffness in their lower body muscles pulls their legs and knees inward.
- Hemiplegia: This subtype of Spastic CP involves muscle stiffness on just one side of the body. Typically, the arm and upper body are more limited than the lower body and leg.
- Quadriplegia: This is the most debilitating form of Spastic CP. With Spastic Quadriplegia CP the entire body – including all 4 limbs and the face – are disabled by muscle stiffness. Individuals with this type of Spastic CP typically cannot walk at all and usually suffer from other problems including mental delays, seizures, vision, hearing, and speech issues.
Dyskinetic CP involves muscles that are either overly stiff or the opposite: too loose. The involuntary muscle movements can be slow or very rapid. The arms and legs are both usually affected. In some instances, the face and mouth are plagued. This makes it very difficult for the person to speak and/or swallow.
The characteristic feature of Ataxic CP is lack of body coordination and balance. People with this type of CP are often wobbly and unsteady when walking. They have difficulty moving quickly or engaging in fine motor skills such as writing.
Some cases of cerebral palsy involve a mix of 2 or more of the CP types described above. Spastic-Dyskinetic is the most frequent type of Mixed CP. Mixed CP also varies in severity.
Signs and Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
As explained above, cerebral palsy is not a specific disorder but rather an umbrella term for a group of related movement disorders resulting from injury to the brain during pregnancy, childbirth, and early infancy. In most cases, CP results from an interruption of oxygen to the brain during pregnancy or childbirth. This means a baby is essentially born with some type of CP. The signs and symptoms of CP are not always immediate, however, so a diagnosis of CP might not come until weeks or months after birth.
The symptoms of CP are usually painfully obvious in toddlers and in babies older than 13 months. Identifying symptoms and diagnosis CP in younger babies is not as easy. Regardless of age, the signs and symptoms of CP will also vary in each individual case depending on the type and severity of CP. Below are some of the common hallmarks of CP at various stages of development:
Signs of CP in Babies Under 6 Months:
- Limp neck or inability to lift and control head
- Baby feels floppy (like a “rag doll”) when picked up
- Baby feels overly stiff when picked up
- When the held baby feels like they are stretching their back and neck as if pushing away
- Baby’s legs become cross or scissor with abnormal stiffness
- Abnormal muscle stiffness or sudden contractions (spastic paralysis)
Signs of CP in Babies Over 6 Months:
- Not able to roll over
- Unable to bring hands together
- Difficulty bringing hands to mouth
- Using only one hand or side while the other remains fisted or stiff
- Involuntary movements
- Failure to meet development milestones
- Abnormal posture
- Speech, hearing or vision difficulties
Signs of CP in Babies Over 10 Months:
- Awkward crawling where baby appears to favor one side while dragging the other
- Does not crawl on all fours and instead drags butt or hops on knees
- Poor fine motor skills
- Limited range of motion
- Slow development
Pediatricians will easily recognize the signs and symptoms of CP and be able to diagnose the condition early on. If you are concerned about whether your baby might have Cerebral Palsy your first step should be to discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the brain during the critical stages of development – pregnancy, birth, and early infancy. Damage or injury to the brain during this key point causes the brain to develop and form abnormally. The exact type and source of damage or injury to the brain vary in each individual case.
We can argue about how frequently cerebral palsy is caused by medical malpractice. Plaintiffs’ lawyers think every CP case is malpractice and defense lawyers seemingly think CP cannot be caused by malpractice. The real answer lies between these extreme positions.
There are several recognized categories of brain damage resulting in CP:
- Prenatal Cell Migration Interruption: something disrupts or interferes with the normal migration of brain cells during early formation stages.
- Prenatal Myelin Issues: Myelin (also known as “white matter”) is a special fatty substance in the body that covers and insulates nerve fibers. When a developing fetus has poor myelin insulation it cannot slow and interrupt the development of the brain.
- Birth Injuries: perinatal brain injuries from the temporary interruption of oxygen to the brain during childbirth is one of the most common causes of CP. Unfortunately, this is often the result of a preventable medical error.
- Postnatal Brain Development: trauma, infection or other events in early infancy can disrupt the normal development of brain cells and cause CP.
Verdicts and Settlements for Baltimore Cerebral Palsy Cases
What is the settlement value of a cerebral palsy case in Baltimore? It is certainly higher in Baltimore City than it is in Baltimore County or other surrounding suburbs.
The value of specific cases will vary based on the facts of the case. The key driver to settlement value in a cerebral palsy case is the child’s future expected medical bills and other costs.
Few birth injury cases go to trial in Baltimore or anywhere for that matter. Why? The stakes are so high for everyone involved so the parties usually find a deal. That is why you see a lot of cerebral palsy lawsuits but few verdicts.
- 2019 Baltimore City $229,640,000 Verdict: A 16-year-old pregnant woman was initially admitted to Southern Maryland Hospital Center. Her gestation period was 25 weeks. She was then transferred to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center because she experienced pre-eclampsia, increased liver enzymes, and increased urine protein. Doctors told her that her baby would not survive or suffer brain damage. Four days later, she gave birth to her daughter via vaginal delivery. Her daughter was born alive, but she was not breathing and lacked a heart rate. She was then transferred to the NICU. The staff intubated the baby and began chest compressions. She now suffers from brain damage, microcephaly, seizures, cognitive and physical impairments, neurological disabilities, and cerebral palsy. Her mother’s counsel claimed that doctors should have delivered her via C-section. They also claimed that the Bayview Medical Center staff wrongly told her that her baby would not survive. The Baltimore City jury awarded her a $229,640,000 verdict.
- 2017 Baltimore County $2,000,000 Verdict: The mother’s water breaks early and she is admitted to the labor and delivery unit at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, just north of Baltimore. The doctors at St. Joseph’s miscalculate the baby’s gestational age to be 36 weeks which leads them to deliver the baby without administering steroids or taking other premature birth precautions. They realize afterward that the mother was only 33 weeks pregnant and the baby was delivered prematurely. As a result, the baby is born prematurely with under-developed lungs and she suffers oxygen deprivation. She is later diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a result of her neonatal respiratory distress. Following a 10-day trial, a jury in Baltimore County finds in favor of the plaintiffs and awards $2 million in damages.
- 2012 Baltimore City $21,000,000 Verdict: The mother is admitted to the maternity ward at MedStar Harbor Hospital which is right across the Hanover Street Bridge by the water in South Baltimore. Her labor is long and very difficult and at some point during delivery, the baby suffers some oxygen deprivation causing injury to her brain. The baby is eventually diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy with cognitive impairment and related respiratory problems. Her mother sues the doctor and Harbor Hospital alleging that they failed to appropriately monitor her labor and recognize indications of fetal distress that should have warranted an emergency C-section. The doctor and hospital insist that they provided competent care and monitoring, but a jury in Baltimore City finds them 100% responsible for the injuries to the baby and award total damage of $21 million.
- 2012 Baltimore City $55,000,000 Verdict: An East Baltimore woman attempts to deliver her baby at her home with a registered nurse-midwife. Several hours later, her labor is not progressing. The midwife administers Pitocin and applies fundal pressure in an effort to accelerate the labor and delivery. These efforts prove unsuccessful and the midwife eventually calls 9 11, and the mother is rushed to Johns Hopkins, for emergency assistance. Doctors at Hopkins eventually perform an emergency C-section, but the baby has already suffered oxygen deprivation and is diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. The case goes to trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court and the jury awards a staggering $55 million in damages.
Life Expectancy for Children with CP
Unfortunately, some individuals with cerebral palsy have a reduced life expectancy. Remember, I said some, not all. Many CP victims are happy people with normal life spans. But CP cases with severe mental/cognitive disability or severe physical impairment are the most likely to reduce life expectancy. The decrease in life expectancy is based in no small measure to the severity of the patient’s symptoms.
Cerebral Palsy Malpractice Claims in Baltimore
Not all cases of CP result from medical negligence. But the undeniable fact is that many children end up with CP because the OBGYN or labor & delivery staff at the hospital made a mistake or mishandled a situation. Even a short loss of oxygen to the brain during childbirth can result in serious injury to a baby. Cerebral palsy is probably one of the most devastating childbirth injuries. A child with CP will be disabled and limited for the rest of their life.
Doctors and hospitals rarely come forward and simply admit that they made a mistake. This is particularly true when their negligence results in serious conditions like cerebral palsy. If your child was born with CP because of medical negligence or error—you have every right to seek financial compensation for the lifetime of hardship and difficulties that you and your child will have to endure. If you want compensation, you will need to take action. The first step in getting financial compensation is consulting an experienced Baltimore birth injury attorney. Use the links below to find additional information on CP malpractice lawsuits in Baltimore:
- Settlement Value of a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
- Baltimore Cerebral Palsy Verdicts & Reported Settlements
- Determining Whether Your Child’s CP was Caused by Malpractice
- Sample CP Lawsuits
- Baltimore Birth Injury Malpractice Cases
- Step-by-Step Overview of the Birth Injury Malpractice Lawsuit Process
Contact Baltimore Cerebral Palsy Attorneys at Miller & Zois
Miller & Zois is one of the most successful and well regarded medical malpractice law firms in Baltimore. Our malpractice attorneys have developed particular expertise in claims involving cerebral palsy and other birth injuries. Compare the results achieved by Miller & Zois to any other birth injury firm in Baltimore. And, not for nothing, our team cares about these children and their parents. Call me today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online case evaluation.