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Couple settles malpractice suit for birth injury

The parents of a girl who suffered permanent injuries at birth reached a $7.75 million settlement with the hospital where she was born.

Both the plaintiffs’ attorneys and defense counsel declined to name the parties, citing a confidentiality clause in the agreement. But based on court records and previous Missouri Lawyers Media reporting, the settlement stems from the same incident that resulted in a $5.1 million settlement against the federal government last year.

The couple, Jamie and Nathan Searcy, filed suit after their daughter was delivered in October 2012 by vaginal birth even though the mother previously had two cesarean-section procedures. A vaginal birth after cesarian, or VBAC, delivery carries a risk of a uterine rupture at the prior C-section scar.

The lawsuit alleged that Jamie Searcy suffered such a rupture when labor was induced. The baby was delivered by emergency C-section, during which doctors discovered the mother’s abdomen was filled with blood. The baby was limp and not breathing.

She was diagnosed with quadriplegic spastic cerebral palsy and a brain injury. Now 8, the child cannot walk, talk, use her arms, stand, sit up or carry out any activities of daily living.

Because the obstetrician’s clinic received federal funding, the Searcys brought claims against the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Their $5.1 million settlement in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, finalized in February 2019, was the 25th-largest plaintiffs’ win of that year, as tracked by Missouri Lawyers Media.

As that story noted, the Searcys also had filed separate, related claims in Camden County Circuit Court against Lake Regional Hospital in Osage Beach, where the birth took place. The state suit alleged that the health care provider had negligently credentialed the obstetrician, Dr. Robert Nielsen. Nielsen himself was dis-missed from the case in 2018, according to court records.

A Camden County judge approved the settlement on behalf of the minor plaintiff on Oct. 16, bringing the total value of the case to $12.875 million.

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