In what could be a landmark ruling, Ohio Judge Michael Krumholtz has ruled in favor of a plaintiff whose child suffered a traumatic brain injury during delivery. The ruling allows expert testimony the defense sought to bar that pointed to cranial compression ischemic encephalopathy as an infant’s cause of brain damage during birth.
In short, cranial compression ischemic encephalopathy is a traumatic brain injury cause by undue pressure on an infant’s head during delivery, whether from prolonged pressure against the cervix or from a surgical instrument. What the allowed research in this case suggests, though, is that the damage occurred as a result of a loss of oxygen. This is the first time this up-and-coming research has been permitted in a medical malpractice case.
Brain Injuries at Birth
Medical experts estimate that roughly 50 percent of all birth injuries are preventable. Newborn brain damage, in particular, can occur as a result of any number of factors, such as oxygen deprivation, jaundice, physical trauma suffered during labor and/or delivery, and simple infections. This brain damage can result in lifelong disabilities and health issues.
Typically, oxygen deprivation is caused by problems with the umbilical cord, a constricted airway, anemia, a separated placenta, or the infant getting lodged in the birth canal during delivery. What the research in this case suggests is that oxygen deprivation can also be caused by physical trauma to the brain. Oxygen deprivation during birth can easily be prevented – or at least addressed – if the doctors and nurses are diligent in tracking fetal distress during delivery.
Infants deprived of oxygen during labor and/or delivery can suffer a range of medical issues, such as permanent brain damage, or damage to the cardiovascular or respiratory systems, among others. But when addressed promptly, infants often make a complete recovery.
Defense Challenged Expert Testimony
The defense’s challenge to the expert testimony in this case was based on “whether the opinion of an expert is reliable,” and if the presented conclusions were based on scientifically valid principles and methods.
Judge Krumholtz based his ruling on the reliability of the expert’s testimony in this case on three critical factors:
- Did the testimony either relate to matters beyond the knowledge or experience of an average person or dispel an average person’s misconceptions?
- Is this witness an expert by virtue of his “specialized knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education regarding the subject matter?”
- Is the testimony based on reliable scientific, technical, or other specialized information?
The court simply had to answer each of these in the affirmative. Whether the expert’s ultimate conclusions were accurate was irrelevant in this ruling. What mattered was whether the witness in question was a reliable expert, and whether the data presented was valid.
To establish that credibility, the court ruled that:
- The theory had been tested.
- The data had been subjected to peer review.
- There was a known or potential rate of error – which was not in dispute.
- The methodology had gained general acceptance.
Judge Krumholtz ultimately ruled that all of these criteria had, in fact, been met. But more importantly, a newborn who’s suffered a traumatic brain injury will have a chance at compensation for injuries that could have easily been prevented.
If you’ve had a child who’s suffered a traumatic brain injury during labor and/or delivery because of a medical provider’s negligence, it’s critical that you speak with a Colorado medical injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call Burg Simpson today at 303-792-5595 or complete our free case evaluation form so we can meet with you to discuss you situation.