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Award for lack of prenatal testing exceeds state malpractice cap

When expecting mothers feel as though something may be wrong with their child, they likely do the right thing by visiting their physician. When doctors provide reassurance that everything is fine, North Carolina patients should be able to trust that diagnosis.

One young mother knew something was not right with her unborn son when he was moving less than normal and she experienced cramping. A third-year medical resident at the hospital checked her out and sent her home. Unfortunately, the medical provider failed to conduct the right tests to monitor the decrease in fetal movement, which proved to be devastating.

The child was born a couple days later after an emergency cesarean section, but with severe birth injuries. He was diagnosed with a hypoxic brain injury, due to oxygen deprivation during the last days of his mother's pregnancy. This condition has severely damaged his cognitive and motor development, leaving him unable to walk or talk.

Initially, the boy's mother was worried that she would not be able to seek the full amount of compensation necessary to cover the financial and emotional consequences of the doctor's error, due to her state's cap on medical malpractice awards. However, the boy's family was eventually able to bring their case to the state's top court to challenge the validity of the cap. They won.

As a result, the mother is entitled to $3.4 million for future medical expenses and all of the $1.45 million for non-economic damages, including pain and anguish. Previously, non-economic damages were limited to $350,000 in her state.

This ruling has not only allowed this woman and her child to find a sense of justice and closure, but provides hope for the many parents and their children who have suffered as the result of an unnecessary medical error. If a medical provider has failed to fulfill their duty to their patients and an irreversible mistake resulted, families have the ability to explore their legal rights and determine the best course of action to hold their medical provider accountable.

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  • Our firm has experience handling medical malpractice cases for severe birth injuries. To learn more about your options under North Carolina law, please visit our Raleigh pregnancy complications page.

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