The Facts of the Case:
On 26 September 2001, an automobile accident occurred involving a woman who was pregnant. As a result of the injuries sustained, the mother was transported to a nearby hospital where fetal testing was performed. She was then transported to another hospital via helicopter. That same day, after declining into kidney failure, the mother underwent a caesarean section. The condition of the infant at the time of her delivery was a matter of controversy. Although the infant required manual resuscitation, her Apgar scores at birth and within minutes of birth were in the normal range. However, it is undisputed that the infant experienced renal distress as well as spinaldamage. She was placed in the special care nursery.
On 3 October 2001, while still in the special care nursery, the infant experienced pulmonary bleeding and then pulmonary arrest leading to multi-organ failure and seizure activity. She was later diagnosed with a neurological injury, cerebral palsy, although the time the neurological injury or brain injury was sustained remains a matter of controversy. It was only after the October 3 episode that the infant was examined by a pediatric neurologist.
Sometime in 2006, the mother and her husband (plaintiffs) filed a personal injury action for medical malpractice in circuit court against their obstetrician, his professional association, and fourteen other defendants. The circuit court proceedings were abated for a determination by DOAH as to whether the infant’s injuries were covered by the State’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan (hereafter, the NICA Plan). The plaintiffs had already filed a petition with DOAH to determine compensation under the Plan. In their petition, the plaintiffs described the child’s condition at birth as follows: By the time of her birth by cesarean section, the infant had suffered a hypoxic ischemic event that caused permanent brain damage or brain injury; the infant then suffered further injury to her brain during the first several days of life, well after the immediate post-delivery resuscitative period.
Thereafter, the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) in which the administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the subject infant did not qualify for coverage by the State’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA Plan). Thus, appeals followed. Before the court are consolidated appeals.
The Issue of the Case:
The primordial issue before the court for determination is whether or not the injuries suffered by the subject infant was covered by the State’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association or the NICA Plan.
To Be Cont…
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