The Heartbreaking Story of a Florida Woman Who Was Unable to Seek Justice After Her Son Died of Birth Injuries
The Miami Herald recently told one of the most tragic birth injury stories we have ever heard. Following a tough delivery where he suffered oxygen deprivation, Reggie Jacques continued to fight for his life. For another 95 days, he survived, despite doctors’ early predictions that he would die immediately and their urging to remove him from the ventilator and his parents to sign a do-not-resuscitate order. Tragically, Reggie died on the 96th day. Unfortunately, an obscure state law prevented his parents from seeking the justice they so rightfully deserved.
Ruth Jacques Labor & Delivery Experience
Ruth Jacques attended her regularly scheduled OB/GYN appointment, and everything appeared fine. There was no indication that she was ready for delivery. However, the next morning, she woke up with a fever and tremors. She went to the hospital where her water broke. She began labor.
Ruth Jacques said that the doctor told her that she “better push” or that she was “going to have a C-section.” She continued pushing. The doctor then used a vacuum device to extract the baby, but it popped off three times before finally succeeding.
Jean Jacques, the child’s father, said that Reggie didn’t cry when he was born. Instead, he was placed on a ventilator. His first two Apgar scores, which measure infant vitality, were both zero. He needed four doses of epinephrine to start his heart. Medical staff recommended removing him from the ventilator six days later.
Ruth Jacques also says that she met separately with a neurologist from the hospital. The neurologist said that Reggie would “never walk, talk, or ever be able to do anything for himself. He would live in a vegetative state.” Reggie died about three months later.
What Went Wrong?
The Jacqueses believe that they could have avoided this tragic outcome if Ruth was given a timely C-section. Ruth thinks that Reggie lost too much oxygen during his delivery, which led to his birth injury and ultimate death. She says that the doctor never told her that Reggie’s life was in danger. The doctor said that Ruth refused the C-section, but there is no signed C-section refusal form in Ruth’s medical records. The records indicate severe fetal heart recordings, but Ruth insists that she was simply told to keep pushing what turned out to be a ten-pound baby.
Ultimately, it is the doctor’s responsibility to explain the risks and benefits of continuing in labor or having a C-section. After all, informed consent principles require obstetricians to provide patients with adequate, accurate, and understandable information so that they can make informed decisions.
Why Couldn’t the Jacqueses Sue?
Reggie Jacques was born and died in Florida, where a state-sponsored Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA) was passed in response to obstetricians’ complaints that their medical malpractice insurance premiums were too high. The law provides a no-fault compensation fund for claims that meet their criteria. Affected families receive $100,000 upfront and “medically necessary” and “reasonable” health care for their child’s life. There is an additional $10,000 burial benefit.
However, the law that established NICA often prevents parents like Ruth and Jean Jacques from filing a birth injury malpractice lawsuit against doctors and hospitals that caused catastrophic or fatal injuries during pregnancy or delivery, even when their mistakes are glaring. Additionally, it may prevent health care providers from being held accountable for their mistakes.
Jean and Ruth Jacques wanted to file a childbirth injury claim against the doctor and hospital for negligence, but NICA barred it. They did file a malpractice complaint with the Florida Department of Health about the doctor who delivered their baby. However, they only received a form letter back that said the doctor’s actions did not violate the standard of care. They are legally barred from appealing the investigation’s decision. Additionally, any records pertaining to the case are sealed and are only available to the doctor.
The doctor who delivered Reggie Jacques has been involved in four other NICA claims.
Birth Injury Cases in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland
Virginia has a similar birth injury fund to the one that barred the Jacques’ claim, called the Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act. However, for a claim to fall within this fund’s purview, the hospital or doctor who delivered the baby must be a participating provider, the participating provider must give written notice to the patient that they participate in the program, and the injury must be one that qualifies under the program. Washington, D.C. and Maryland do not currently have funds of this nature, but legislation has been proposed to establish this type of fund.
To pursue a medical malpractice case in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C., you will typically need to have a medical expert review the circumstances that led to the injury. They will have to certify that you have grounds to file a medical malpractice case. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help explain the requirements of this process and the time limit to file your claim.
With more than 30 years of experience, our medical malpractice attorneys at Bertram & Murphy take a unique approach to these complex cases. As former defense attorneys for health care providers, our medical malpractice lawyers have an insider’s perspective on how medical providers treat patients and defend against medical malpractice claims. We use these invaluable insights to your benefit, crafting aggressive litigation strategies aimed at recovering maximum compensation.
When we get started, a D.C. Birth Injury Attorney from our firm will work quickly to assess the facts of your case and consult with a medical expert to determine the merit of the legal claim. We do this at no cost to you. If we believe you have a case, we will move forward immediately to demand the full and fair compensation you deserve.
We represent injured patients and their families throughout Washington, D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. Contact us today to get started.