Defense Verdict in Richmond County

Denise Holzka obtained a defense verdict on behalf of a Staten Island obstetrician in a medical malpractice action claiming that an infant plaintiff sustained hypoxic-ischemic brain injury due to negligence during labor and delivery.

Plaintiffs alleged that our client did not appropriately monitor the progress of labor and did not  appreciate the signs of fetal distress, improperly administered Pitocin and failed to perform a Caesarean section in a timely fashion.  Plaintiffs’ experts testified that the oxygen deprivation which led to the brain injury would have been prevented had a Caesarean section been performed sooner.  Plaintiffs’ expert cited the fetal monitoring strips that demonstrated a persistent non-reassuring and ominous heart rate pattern and the presence of heavy meconium when the membranes ruptured.

The infant remained in the neo-natal intensive care unit for over a month where she was treated with mechanical oxygen support, anti-seizure medication and the surgical insertion of a feeding tube.  The infant-plaintiff remained on anti-seizure medication and required the feeding tube for approximately a year.  Five years old at the time of trial, the child received early childhood intervention services and support for delayed development and a speech impairment.  Plaintiffs claimed that as the infant-plaintiff progressed, she would likely demonstrate further deficits and therefore, would require continual support throughout her lifetime.

Ms. Holzka successfully defended the management of the labor by demonstrating that the periods of non-reassuring patterns on the fetal monitoring strips were transient and followed by accelerations which indicated the baby was well-oxygenated.  Moreover, Ms. Holzka argued that the strips did not reveal a sinusoidal pattern or other ominous findings that required emergency intervention, and that our client timely called for the Caesarean section after appropriately allowing for a course of labor.   Finally, Ms. Holzka argued that the presence of meconium on its own did not confirm the baby was in distress.

Ms. Holzka also presented the results of an MRI, which contained a finding of a watershed lesion, which must have occurred in utero at least a week prior to birth.  She further argued that the infant did not meet all the required criteria for a hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy due to a traumatic delivery.  The baby’s APGAR scores of 9 at one minute and 9 at five minutes and the absence of seizures until the second day of life were inconsistent with an hypoxic-ischemic injury occurring at or near the time of birth.

Following a three week trial, the jury returned a unanimous defense verdict within an hour.