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If you’re an Atlanta resident with a child with cerebral palsy, you are not alone. Around 6.2 per 1,000 live births in the Atlanta area are babies born with or who develop cerebral palsy. Some of these children developed a lifelong disorder that could have been prevented with the correct medical treatment or accurate maternal diagnosis.
While it’s true there are some cases in which there is no one to blame for a child developing cerebral palsy, what about the children who wouldn’t have been affected if not for shoddy medical work or negligence?
The painful but straightforward fact is that there are many children with disabilities because of medical errors. Doctors are only human, after all. Still, if they fail to diagnose or fail to provide the proper medical treatment, they could be liable for damages for injuries, illnesses, and disorders such as cerebral palsy.
$25 Million Settlement for Failure to Diagnosis
In 2018, Benjamin and Heather Carpenter, of Columbus (around an hour south of Atlanta), successfully won a settlement against Atlanta’s St. Francis Hospital, after their daughter, Gracie, developed cerebral palsy.
The doctors failed to catch Group B Streptococcus in Heather’s blood during prenatal checkups. The bacteria eventually reached Gracie’s brain, causing meningitis and brain damage, which led to the baby developing cerebral palsy.
Had Heather been appropriately diagnosed, an antibiotic should have been given, which could have blocked the bacteria from reaching her daughter.
According to court documents filed at the Superior Court of Muscogee County, Heather Carpenter went into early labor in June 2011, when she was 35 weeks pregnant. Her physician, Dr. Eikelberry, gave her an antibiotic and medications to help stop the early labor, but he failed to order testing for Group B Streptococcus before prescribing the medicines.
“When Dr. Eikelberry saw Heather in the office on August 1, 2011, he should have recognized that she had been in the hospital several days prior, where she received Ampicillin, an antibiotic known to treat GBS effectively,” the pretrial order read, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.
Knowing that Heather had recently received antibiotics, Dr. Eikelberry should have recognized that a culture performed on that date could not be relied upon to accurately reflect her GBS status.”
A day after Gracie’s birth, her temperature reached 102 degrees. Lab tests were quickly ordered, which later determined Gracie had developed Group B Streptococcus, which eventually led to meningitis and a host of other medical issues that the little girl will likely live with for life.
Lab tests indicated that Gracie had an infection. Subsequent blood and spinal fluid studies confirmed that Gracie contracted Group B Streptococcus at birth resulting in meningitis. The infection in her brain, resulted in seizures, and Gracie has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, and generalized developmental delay,” a court order read.
Although the hospital fought the lawsuit, its attorneys settled the case just before it was scheduled for trial.
The family’s attorney had no doubts that should the case have gone to trial, the plaintiffs would have been successful.
“To know Gracie is to love her, and I am confident that the jury would have been able to appreciate how special she is,” the lawyer said.
$30.5 Million Trial VERDICT for Failure to Diagnose
In November 2012, plaintiff Zetah Louis, of Lawrenceville, won a trial against Gwinnett Medical Center after her baby daughter developed multiple health problems that connected back to a failure to diagnose.
In June 2012, Louis went to her doctor at Maternal Gynerations, worried because she couldn’t detect her baby’s heartbeat. Dr. Willard Hearin identified problems after issuing an ultrasound and sent Louis, 35 weeks pregnant at the time, to the hospital.
Louis checked into Gwinnett Medical Center but said she wasn’t put on fetal monitoring until two hours after check-in. Another physician, Dr. Lipscomb, reportedly said it would be OK to hold off on the delivery “if intrauterine resuscitation and immediate biophysical profile were going to be performed,” according to court documents.
Three hours after Louis checked into the hospital, a biophysical stat profile was ordered. The testing didn’t begin until two hours after it was ordered, although, according to the plaintiff, several ultrasonographers were working that night.
When the biophysical profile score came back as 4/10, Louis was placed back on fetal monitoring. The baby’s heart rate was slow, prompting a cesarean delivery (C-section). When the baby was born, she had “profound metabolic acidosis” and developed quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
Jurors ultimately found Gwinnett Medical Center 75% liable for damages, and Dr. Hearin 25% responsible. While Louis was awarded $3.5 million, an additional $27 million went to the infant, Re’Ayah Louis.
Cerebral Palsy Medical and Emotional Help in Atlanta
Several medical facilities specialize solely in treating people with cerebral palsy. Treatment options can include medications, orthopedics, dentistry, physical therapy, neurology, and more.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
1400 Tullie Road, Atlanta, Georgia, 30329
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Town Center
625 Big Shanty Road NW, Kennesaw, Georgia, 30144
Families of Children Under Stress (FOCUS)
3050 Presidential Drive, Suite 114, Atlanta, GA 30340