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Minnesota Birth Asphyxia Lawyers

Many babies born with asphyxia die. Those that live often face a lifetime of hardship due to their lifelong brain and other physical injuries. Birth asphyxia can cause hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), and other disabilities.  

Birth asphyxia is the medical condition that results when an infant is deprived of oxygen and nutrients before, during or immediately after birth. In order to be diagnosed with birth asphyxia — also referred to as neonatal or perinatal asphyxia —the baby’s oxygen deprivation must have lasted long enough during the birth process to cause physical harm.

Most birth asphyxia injuries fall under one of the following categories:

  • Acute near total asphyxia. Also referred to as basal ganglia-thalamus pattern of injury, acute near total asphyxia is a brain injury that commonly results in severe cases of cerebral palsy.
  • Partial, prolonged asphyxia. Partial, prolonged asphyxia often results in slow head growth, cognitive impairments, language delays, and behavior problems.

In many cases, birth asphyxia is the result of medical malpractice. This is a heartbreaking realization for parents who rely on doctors, nurses and hospitals to provide a certain standard of care during prenatal care, labor and delivery. It can feel like the worst betrayal to realize the medical care providers you trusted acted negligently. While nobody can turn back time and prevent the birth injury from occurring, a Minnesota Birth Injury Attorney can help you find the resources to care for your child in the best way possible. 

Birth asphyxia is often the result of medical malpractice that occurs either because the birth was not attended to properly or because the mother had a diagnosable condition that was not taken into account during birth. For instance, birth asphyxia may occur as a result of:

  • Uterine rupture, where the uterus completely or partially tears
  • Placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the uterus before the baby is born
  • Umbilical cord prolapse, where the umbilical cord drops through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby, becoming trapped against the baby’s body during delivery
  • Failure to properly manage a high-risk pregnancy
  • Infections during labor and delivery that were not properly diagnosed and treated
  • Improper monitoring of fetal heartrate
  • Failure to intervene during prolonged labor
  • Inducing labor with dangerously strong uterine contractions

Each baby experiences symptoms of birth asphyxia differently. However, there are common symptoms that indicate that birth asphyxia is present. Some of these occur before delivery and others occur immediately following birth.  

Before delivery, a baby experiencing birth asphyxia may have:

  • An abnormal heart rate or rhythm
  • An increased level of acid in his or her blood

At the time of birth, symptoms of asphyxia can include:

  • A bluish or unusually pale skin color
  • A low heart rate
  • Weakened muscle tone and slow or undetectable reflexes
  • A very weak cry, gasping for breath, and/or weak breathing
  • A pH level in the arterial blood of the umbilical cord that is less than 7.00
  • A low Apgar score, usually zero to three, for longer than five minutes
  • Signs of neurological problems, such as seizures, coma and poor muscle tone
  • Low blood pressure or other signs of respiratory distress
  • Circulatory or digestive system problems

How birth asphyxia will affect your child depends on a number of factors, including when the oxygen deprivation occurred and how long it lasted. If your baby experienced moderate to severe asphyxia that has resulted in brain damage and/or physical disabilities, you’ll probably need to make home, educational, social, and even occupational adjustments.

Depending on the severity of your child’s disability and any co-morbidities they develop, you may face all kinds of physical and behavioral health issues, including:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental delays
  • Sensory processing issues
  • Language disorders, including speech delays
  • Hearing issues
  • Vision issues
  • Pain management issues
  • Orthopedic issues
  • Neurological disorders
  • Emotional and behavioral issues
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Skin diseases and disorders
  • Orthopedic issues and pain

Your child may need around-the-clock care for his or her entire lifetime. The resources that it will take to ensure proper care are going to be significant. Not only are you going to need to adjust everything in your life to accommodate your special needs child, you also are going to have to make sure that they will be taken care of in the event you are no longer able to care for them yourself. Some of the matters you may need substantial financial resources for include:

  • Making your home safe and handicap accessible for your child both now and as he or she grows up
  • Being able to transport your child to and from your home
  • Acquiring all of the adaptive equipment your child will need now and in the future, including wheelchairs, and assessable beds, toilet seats and bathing adaptations
  • Accessing all of the assistive technology your child will require
  • Making sure your child has access to the proper special education resources
  • Providing for a lifetime of medical care and medications
  • Continuing physical, occupational, and/or behavioral therapy

In addition, you are entitled to recover for other losses, such as:

  • Your lost wages as a result of having to care for your child or your child’s loss of earning capacity
  • The pain and suffering and emotional distress this tragedy has caused you, your child, and your family

Under Minnesota law, damages for medical malpractice are unlimited. In other words, you are entitled to seek amounts to cover all of the costs that will be incurred for your child’s entire lifetime. In certain cases, you can also recover additional damages that, rather than being linked to the actual cost of care, are intended to punish those who caused the harm.

The only way to understand the strength of your case and what your options are is to consult with an experienced Minnesota Medical Malpractice Attorney. We invite you to sit down with one of our experienced lawyers as soon as possible to undergo a thorough case review. There are legal time limits for bringing suit and a successful medical malpractice lawsuit depends on filing the case on time, as well as collecting, preserving, and properly presenting all the relevant evidence.

To learn more, please call our Minnesota Medical Birth Injury Lawyer today at 612.349.2723 or fill out our free consultation form below.

THE MADIA LAW WAY

We have a process that works in getting exceptional results for our clients. 

  1. Investigation and legal research. We are trial lawyers who prepare every case for trial from Day 1. Investigation and legal research are the first things we do, and we spend a lot of time on them. Because we haven’t filed the case yet, we have complete control – the defendant has no say and we want to use this time wisely.  We interview witnesses that can help us prove the case.  We’ll ask you for all relevant documents in your possession and review those carefully as well.  We also will spend some time conducting legal research about unique issues in the case.  We pull the jury instructions that the judge will ultimately charge the jury with after closing arguments at trial. 
  1. Demand letter. Our next step is typically to send a demand letter to the defendant. In the letter, we thoroughly lay out: the facts surrounding the defendant’s misconduct; the applicable law (including statutory and case citations) that make clear that the defendant broke the law; an analysis of your damages and the defendant’s monetary exposure; a demand for a monetary amount to settle the claim; and an instruction to preserve all relevant evidence, including electronic evidence. The point of this letter is to give the defendant a chance to do the right thing and pay a fair amount before litigation, and to give the defendant an opportunity to present any defenses or evidence it wants us to consider before moving forward.  Sometimes we skip the demand letter if there are strategic reasons to move straight to filing, but we typically give defendants a chance to do the right thing.
  1. Complaint. If early negotiations fail, great – we file a Complaint and serve the defendant with it. A Complaint is a legal document that states the facts of what happened and alleges how the defendant broke the law. It formally starts the lawsuit.  Many lawyers draft complaints in a general and relatively vague way, just to get it done and filed – because that’s all that’s really required.  We take a different view. We view the Complaint as our first chance to tell your story to the judge, and we take it seriously. So we draft detailed complaints and include legal citations to statutory and judicial authority on unique points.  Sometimes we’ll include a number of exhibits, diagrams, or other demonstrative aids to help the Court understand our claims.  A secondary benefit of this approach is that defense lawyers reading the Complaint can become educated on the problems of their case and the state of the law – sometimes this leads them to reach out to us shortly after service of the Complaint to re-initiate settlement negotiations.  Of course, by that time, the price for settlement has gone up.
  1. Detailed written discovery. Some lawyers view written discovery as a necessary evil – something to get done and out of the way before depositions.  Not us.  Written discovery is a gift and an opportunity.  We spend a great deal of time crafting requests for documents and interrogatories (questions for the defendant to answer in writing) that are specific, detailed, and tailored to get what we need to prove our case.  Many lawyers – even great ones – think written discovery is a waste of time because defense lawyers typically answer them on behalf of their clients and can try to stonewall with legalese and objections.  We view this as a wonderful opportunity.  In our experience, most defense lawyers can’t help themselves when answering discovery: they over-state their defenses and make assertions that their clients will not be able to support in testimony. So we get to commit the defendant to defenses that they can’t back up, leading to contradictions, confusion, and chaos in their depositions later on.  We also use Requests for Admission – which many lawyers don’t.  The Federal Rules and Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow us to ask defendants to “admit” certain facts.  We send them RFAs that are very difficult for them to deny.  Of course, they do it anyway, but that sets them up later for cost and fee-shifting, which the Rules mandate for defendants that deny RFAs that are later proven true.  And usually, we can get the defendants’ own witnesses to admit facts that their defense lawyers denied in RFA.  That’s a great situation that leads to more chaos and confusion on the defense side.

One last point on written discovery – we send multiple waves of it throughout discovery.  We typically send 3 or 4 sets of written discovery requests to defendants throughout discovery.  This compounds the problems for them, because the defense lawyers continue to overstate their defenses, but now run into contradictions from not just the defendant witnesses’ deposition testimony, but also their own previous discovery responses.  This makes for a great record that we can present to the judge at dispositive motions, and use for impeachment at trial.

  1. Depositions. This is our chance to question relevant witnesses, on the record with a court reporter (we typically videotape important depositions as well). We get to confront the defense witnesses with all of the evidence we’ve developed through written discovery and document production. By this time, the defendant put its witnesses in an impossible position through its written defenses, which are often untrue and indefensible.  So the witness has to either lie to support the defense, or admit it’s not true.  That’s a dilemma that works for our clients either way, no matter which option the witness takes.  We use depositions to expose contradictions, create a record for dispositive motions, lock witnesses into their stories so that we can impeach them later at trial, and sometimes, to show defense lawyers how hopeless their case is.  We often calls from defense counsel shortly after depositions of their clients, seeking to re-start settlement negotiations.
  2. Dispositive motions. The defendant will usually make a motion for summary judgment after discovery, asking the Court to throw out the case without having a jury trial. Because we’ve hit discovery so hard – both through written discovery and depositions – this is a tough motion for defense counsel to write in our cases.  We draft our response for the Court and now get to bring everything together: the admissions, contradictions, nonsense, and obvious fact disputes that we’ve uncovered through discoveryWe tell a compelling story that wraps everything together for the Court and makes clear that the defense motion has to be denied, and the defendant needs to face a jury for its conduct.

Sometimes, we’ll even make an affirmative motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to grant judgment in favor of our client without a trial. These motions are generally rare for plaintiffs to make, because the defendant can usually point to some fact dispute on its intent or some other factor that necessitates a trial. But we make affirmative summary judgment motions significantly more than is typical for plaintiffs, and that’s because the work we put in during discovery helps build a fantastic record to do so.

  1. Last Chance. After the Court denies the defense motion for summary judgment, the defendant has only 2 options: 1) do the right thing and pay you a fair amount to our client to settle your claim (usually much, much more at this point than the defendant could have paid at the beginning of the case to settle); or 2) face a jury for its conduct and risk an enormous verdict. This is the dilemma that we have been creating and forcing the defendant into for the entire case. We’ll engage in settlement negotiations at this point from a position of extreme strength, mainly because most defendants are (rightly) terrified of facing a jury to defend their conduct.

  2. Trial. This is, candidly, our favorite part of the case – why we went to law school: to hold the powerful accountable before juries.  We prepare heavily for trial, including: detailed witness preparation, focus groups, and mock trials.  At this point, the potential outcomes and consequences for the defendant are much more severe than if it simply did the right thing at the beginning of the case and paid a fair amount to compensate our client for its misconduct.  As we advocate to the jury for our client, we’re also mindful of protecting the record so that defendants will be unsuccessful in attacking the verdict in post-trial motions or appeal.

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