Texas District Court Denies Family's Request to Have Their Birth Injury Case Reconsidered in Rodriguez v. United States

Recently, a federal district court in Texas denied a family’s request to have their birth injury case reconsidered. In Rodriguez v. United States, Jessica Rodriguez gave birth to a full term baby referred to as “E.R.” on March 23, 2005 after a scheduled Caesarian section at Wilford Hall Medical Center. At the time of E.R.’s birth, the delivery room nurse noted that she was small for his gestational age. Even so, about an hour later, E.R.’s doctor had her admitted to the nursery for normal newborns, noting that she appeared to be in good condition.

gavel-952313-m.jpgWithin the next 36 hours, nursing evaluations determined that E.R.’s vital signs were within normal limits. However, the following day, E.R.’s parents reported that E.R. had difficulty feeding throughout the night and suffered some night sweating. E.R. was evaluated and the medical staff determined that she had hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose. E.R. was admitted to intensive care, and over the next 10 hours, her blood glucose levels fluctuated. The medical staff added hydrocortisone to her treatment to invoke a steroid hyperglycemia. After two days of life, E.R. experienced neonatal seizure activity, and a computer image revealed an intracranial hemorrhage consistent with brain injury secondary to profound neonatal hypoglycemia. The cause of E.R.’s hypoglycemia was unknown, though the doctors did not rule out metabolic disease. The medical staff at Wilford Hall Medical Center advised E.R.’s parents to prepare for the possibility that she could have permanent neurological problems and developmental delays.

E.R. did experience speech and developmental delays, as well as debilitating seizures when she was 15 months old. She saw a series of doctors, and now, at eight years old, is thought to have permanent brain damage.

In 2011, E.R.’s parents contacted an attorney, who had E.R.’s medical records reviewed by an expert. The expert concluded that E.R.’s injuries could have been prevented had she received better care as a newborn. E.R.’s parents then filed an administrative claim with the United States Air Force. The claim was denied in March 2013, and E.R.’s parents therefore filed a lawsuit in federal court under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Wilford Hall Medical Center sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the claim was time-barred due to the Federal Tort Claims Act’s two-year statute of limitations.

The district court granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss. It permitted Scottie Rodriguez, E.R.’s father, to pursue his claim because it was tolled under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. E.R.’s parents filed a motion to alter or amend the court’s order, claiming that the court had incorrectly determined the date when the cause of action began to accrue. They argued that accrual should have begun in 2011, when they consulted legal counsel and a medical expert. However, the court found that E.R.’s parents never established grounds for altering or amending the order. There was no manifest error of law or newly discovered evidence. The date of accrual did not begin when the parents learned of their legal rights, but when they had knowledge of facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that there was a causal connection between treatment and injury. The court therefore denied the motion to alter or amend.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt has more than 100 years of collective experience dealing with medical malpractice and birth injury cases. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the firm represents residents in Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you have a birth injury or other medical malpractice issue, contact a Baltimore birth injury attorney today for a free consultation.

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