Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Cesarean Section Errors

Injuries from a botched C-section can be devastating to a mother and baby. Find out how to get the compensation you deserve for injuries caused by C-section malpractice.

More than 1.2 million infants born each year are delivered by cesarean section, accounting for nearly a third of all babies born in the United States. ²

Also called a C-section, a cesarean section is a surgical procedure where incisions are made through the mother’s abdomen and uterus to remove the baby.

Cesarean sections are normally performed when the safety of the mother or baby is at risk.

While C-sections are common procedures, occasionally problems do occur. Most doctors are well-equipped to deal with cesarean section complications, but there are instances when the mother or child are unnecessarily harmed.

If a badly done or untimely C-section harmed you or your baby, you’re entitled to file a medical malpractice claim to seek compensation.

Not all birth injuries are caused by C-sections. Learn more about other Birth Injury Lawsuits here.

Planned and Unplanned C-sections

Cesarean sections can be planned or unplanned. During the pregnancy, the doctor may decide a planned, also called “elective” C-section is advisable for the safety of the mother or baby.

Unplanned, emergency C-sections are performed when something goes wrong during active labor.

Planned or “elective” C-sections may happen when the mother:

  • Has an infection which could be transferred to the baby
  • Had a previous C-section
  • Has high blood pressure
  • Is obese
  • Is carrying a very large baby (common with a diabetic mother)
  • Is carrying multiple babies
  • Has a low lying placenta
  • Had previous uterine surgery (like to remove fibroids)
  • Has experienced a previous stillbirth

Unplanned, emergency C-sections are performed when:

  • Labor is not progressing after many hours
  • Uterine rupture is suspected
  • The placenta is either blocking the birth canal or has begun to detach
  • The baby or mother shows signs of distress
  • The umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck
  • The baby is too large for vaginal delivery
  • Other complications arise during labor

Cesarean Section Risks and Complications

Planned and unplanned C-sections are usually done to safeguard the health of the mother, the baby, or both. Nonetheless, a cesarean section delivery is major abdominal surgery, and as with any surgery, there are risks.

C-section Risks for Babies:

  • Infant Death: C-sections are most often done to protect the baby, however babies born by planned as well as unplanned cesarean deliveries are four times more likely to die than those delivered vaginally.
  • Breathing Problems: Even full-term babies are more likely to have breathing problems after a C-section, probably because the baby misses natural mechanisms for absorbing fluid in the lungs that are typically triggered during vaginal birth.
  • Asthma: Several studies have reported a link between cesarean delivery and the later development of asthma. As many as 20% of children delivered by C-section develop asthma symptoms before adulthood.
  • Trauma: Babies delivered by cesarean are also at risk of trauma, most commonly from surgical cuts during emergency deliveries.
  • Failure to Breastfeed: Mothers who underwent planned or unplanned cesarean deliveries were nearly twice as likely to have breastfeeding difficulties compared with those who delivered vaginally.

C-section Risks for Mothers:

  • Pulmonary Embolism: A blood clot that travels to the lungs is a leading cause of maternal death related to cesarean delivery, happening four times more often than with vaginal delivery.
  • Excessive Bleeding: A small percentage of women suffer from post-partum hemorrhage or PPH. Excessive bleeding is often caused when the uterus is unable to contract effectively to close blood vessels left open after the placenta is delivered.
  • Infection: Infection is one of the most common complications of cesarean delivery.
  • Surgical Injuries: Bladder injuries are the most common injuries to surrounding structures during a C-section, followed by damage to the bowel or ureters. Failing to identify these injuries can result in sepsis and kidney failure.
  • Emergency Hysterectomy: The risk of the need for hysterectomy after or during cesarean delivery is greater than after a vaginal delivery.
  • Pain: Recovery from a surgical delivery is typically more painful than from vaginal birth.
  • Maternal Death: Despite the advances in modern medicine, women still die in childbirth. A woman undergoing a cesarean delivery is three times more likely to die than a woman who delivers vaginally.

Case Summary: Wrongful Death from Botched C-Section

Kelly Jarvis was only 31 years old when her son was delivered by cesarean section at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital.  According to the lawsuit, Dr. Peter F. McIlveen cut Kelly’s small bowel during the C-section and closed the incision without checking her upper abdomen.

Despite her complaints of severe pain, nausea, and the inability to move her bowels, Dr. McIlveen didn’t check on her, and no lab work or other tests were done. She was released from the hospital three days later, still suffering.

The next day she was re-admitted to Chatham Memorial and placed in ICU with a diagnosis of sepsis and kidney failure. That evening she was transported to a larger medical center where she died within hours.

Attorneys for Kelly’s estate and her husband Alan Jarvis filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. McIlveen and the hospital, alleging negligence for failing to treat Kelly according to standard medical procedures.

The jury agreed, awarding $4.5 Million to the Estate of Kelly Jarvis.

Injuries Caused by Delayed C-Section

An emergency C-section safely delivers many babies after something goes wrong during labor. Laboring women in the hospital should be closely monitored to identify and respond to any sudden changes.

If your medical team takes too long to identify the problem or get you into emergency surgery, the results can be catastrophic.

An immediate C-section is the reasonable standard of care for circumstances such as:

Case Summary: Jury Award of $50.3 Million for Delayed C-Section

Attorneys for the Florez family, Aimee and David Florez and their son Julian, filed a lawsuit against NorthShore University Health System, medical doctor Armin Drachler and nurse Lisa Wegrzyn for medical negligence resulting in severe birth injuries to Julian.

Aimee was five days past her due date and in active labor when she arrived at Northshore Evanston Hospital.  She was checked in, examined and hooked up to a fetal monitor that checks the baby’s heart rate during labor.

About three hours later, the fetal monitor showed the baby’s heart rate dropped, indicating the baby might be in trouble and not getting enough oxygen. The baby’s heart rate dropped several times.

The doctor ordered Pitocin, an IV drug used to make labor go faster by causing the uterine to contract harder and more quickly. Speeding up labor can also put more stress on the baby.

The baby’s heart rate dropped again, and rather than perform an immediate C-section, the C-section was scheduled as “routine” so Julien wasn’t delivered until nearly an hour later.

Curt records indicate Julien was born “lifeless and blue” having suffered severe brain damage right before he was delivered. Julien will need special care for his entire life.

The jury found the doctor and nurse “failed to act reasonably” and awarded the family a total of $50.3 million, including $8.5 million for past and future emotional distress.

Building a Case for Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice lawsuits account for millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards each year. Physician malpractice is generally defined as:

“An act or omission by a doctor which deviates downward from the established standard of care in the medical community, and as a result of that deviation, the patient is unnecessarily harmed.”

If a doctor’s negligence injured you or your baby, you might be able to file a claim against the doctors, nurses, and possibly the hospital where the C-section was performed.

To build a strong medical malpractice case, you must show:

  1. The doctor owed you a duty to perform your C-section according to the medical standard of care set by other doctors in the community.
  2. The doctor deviated from that standard of care.
  3. As a result of the deviation, you or your baby were injured.
  4. The deviation (negligence) was the direct and proximate cause of your damages.

Damages can be suffered by the mother or baby, and may include:

  • Medical expenses for extended hospitalization or additional surgery
  • Therapy and rehabilitation costs
  • Loss of the child’s future income
  • Loss of income for the caregiver parent
  • Cost of specialized medical equipment like wheelchairs, ventilators, and more
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral expenses

Case Summary: $4 Million Award for Pain and Suffering

Marie Gabriel-Gelin was admitted to South Shore Hospital for the planned cesarean delivery of her fourth child. Marie had become anemic during her pregnancy, placing her at higher risk for complications.

During the C-section, one of the doctors perforated her bowel. The bowel had to be repaired by a vascular surgeon. Because of the torn bowel and other complications, Marie lost a lot of blood.

Later that day, Marie began bleeding profusely. Despite multiple transfusions and an emergency hysterectomy, Marie suffered cardiac arrest and died.

Lawyers for Marie’s family sued the doctors and hospital for malpractice, alleging that the doctors should have done more to protect Marie from dangerous complications.

The jury determined that while the doctor did not directly cause Marie’s death, she contributed to Marie’s “conscious pain and suffering,” awarding $4 million to Marie’s children.

Why You Need a Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice claims are complicated, high-dollar legal actions. If you and your baby came through a cesarean section with relatively minor injuries, your damages and potential recovery probably aren’t enough to justify the time and effort of a lawsuit.

Whether or not you go ahead with a lawsuit, you can file a complaint with the state medical board.

Filing a complaint with the state board will start an investigation of the doctor. If the board decides the doctor’s actions breached the code of conduct, they may censure the doctor, or suspend or revoke his license to practice medicine.

If you are proceeding with a lawsuit, your attorney will use the board’s action against the doctor as important supporting evidence.

Doctors and hospitals are protected by malpractice insurance. When a mother or child is severely injured by medical malpractice, the insurance company swings into action to get rid of the problem quickly. Their goal is to make you go away while spending little to no money.

Malpractice insurance carriers don’t care about the wrongful death of a young mother or a disabled infant who will require life-long care.

Don’t be fooled by a voluntary settlement offer from the insurance company, wrapped in false sympathy. They are trying to get off cheap.

You’ll need a seasoned malpractice attorney to get the compensation you and your family deserve.

Medical malpractice claims take time and money. Look for an attorney who can advance the funds needed to pay for expert witnesses, medical record reviews, deposition expenses, and more.

Attorneys who specialize in malpractice cases don’t usually charge for their initial consultation and will represent you on a contingency fee basis. That means the attorney won’t get any fees unless your case is settled or won in court.

If you or your baby were hurt by a delayed or botched C-section, you deserve fair compensation. Don’t wait to find out what a skilled attorney can do for you.

C-Section Lawsuit Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>