July 22, 2003 - Jury Finds for Defendants in Cerebral Palsy Injury Case

Anita Rivera filed suit against the Pocono Medical Center and Dr. Philip Lawrence after her high-risk pregnancy resulted in the birth of a mentally retarded and disabled child.

Rivera went to the Pocono Medical Center Women's Clinic on July 24, 1995, during her fifth month of pregnancy. She had previous prenatal care in March 1995 at Planned Parenthood in New Jersey. At the Women's Clinic, Rivera gave a history of borderline diabetes and obesity, and reported smoking a pack of cigarettes per day during pregnancy.

On Nov. 17, 1995, Rivera reported a decrease in fetal movement, and after a non-reassuring biophysical profile and non-stress test, the baby was delivered by Caesarian Section on Nov. 19, 1995.

The baby had Apgar scores of six and eight, but began to develop seizures in the first three months of life and subsequently developed cerebral palsy and mental retardation. The child, now 7 years old, also suffers from cortical blindness.

During the prenatal period, Rivera was cared for by a nurse midwife employed by the Pocono Medical Center and was seen once early in the pregnancy by Dr. Philip Lawrence on Aug. 16, 1995.

As a result of Rivera's borderline diabetes, obesity and smoking history, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants should have classified Rivera as a high-risk pregnancy and, therefore, increased surveillance in the form of ultrasounds and biophysical profile. These measures would have determined the existence of oligohydramnios, which allegedly caused cord compression and hypoxic brain damage, the plaintiffs claimed. The plaintiffs additionally asserted that throughout the pregnancy, the nurse midwife should have noticed a discrepancy between fundal height and gestational age, which exhibits a pattern of growth retardation, and referred Rivera for additional testing and treatment with an OB/GYN.

The defense contended that the minor plaintiff suffered a maldevelopment of her brain during the first three months of pregnancy as a result of unknown causes, resulting in her mental retardation and cerebral palsy.

After eight days of trial and 43 minutes of deliberation, a jury returned a verdict in favor of both defendants.

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