Georgia Doctors Blamed for Child’s Cerebral Palsy Agree to Settlement

cerebral palsy

St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia recently agreed to a settlement in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a local family who blamed them and two of the hospital’s doctors for their child’s brain damage, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays. According to Heather and Benjamin Carpenter, the birth injuries suffered by their daughter Gracie back in 2011 were a result of “combined failures of the St. Francis doctors.” The amount of the settlement is undisclosed but follows another medical malpractice against the hospital three months earlier on similar charges. That case ended in a $26 million verdict against the hospital.

The details of Gracie Carpenter’s cerebral palsy point to apparent negligence on the part of two physicians involved in her case, Drs. Susan L. Epley and Daniel J. Eikelberry, both of whom also settled with the family last May. When Mrs. Carpenter was just 35 weeks of pregnancy, she was admitted to St. Francis Hospital with preterm contractions and was monitored and treated by Dr, Epley. The physician ordered antibiotics in case Heather delivered early as well as medication to stop the labor but did not test for Group B Streptococcus before ordering the medicines. Doing so is a standard of care for OB/GYN physicians faced with the same situation.

Failure to Test for Infection Resulted in Child’s Cerebral Palsy After Birth

The failure to test for Group B Streptococcus was a critical mistake that led to Gracie’s cerebral palsy. After her release from the hospital, Mrs. Carpenter was examined by Dr. Eikelberry as part of a regularly scheduled prenatal appointment. Though he did order a culture for the Group B Streptococcus bacteria, the culture was negative, and he failed to recognize that the negative result was a result of her having been given Ampicillin in the hospital. According to the filing in the case, “Dr. Eikelberry should have recognized that a culture performed on that date could not be relied upon to accurately reflect her GBS status. Dr. Eikelberry’s decision to obtain the culture after the administration of antibiotics and to rely on the results to manage Heather’s future care was a deviation from the standard of care.”

The failure to test for Group B Streptococcus was a critical mistake that led to Gracie’s cerebral palsy. After her release from the hospital, Mrs. Carpenter was examined by Dr. Eikelberry as part of a regularly scheduled prenatal appointment. Though he did order a culture for the Group B Streptococcus bacteria, the culture was negative, and he failed to recognize that the negative result was a result of her having been given Ampicillin in the hospital. According to the filing in the case, “Dr. Eikelberry should have recognized that a culture performed on that date could not be relied upon to reflect her GBS status accurately. Dr. Eikelberry’s decision to obtain the culture after the administration of antibiotics and to rely on the results to manage Heather’s future care was a deviation from the standard of care.”

When Heather was admitted to the hospital to deliver her child, she was not provided intrapartum antibiotics for GBS because of the negative culture. Just one day after her birth, Gracie’s temperature rose to 102 degrees, and lab tests showed that she had contracted Group B Streptococcus resulting in meningitis. This led to seizures, which left her with cerebral palsy, visual impairment and generalized developmental delays. Proper screening and adherence to the accepted standard of care would have prevented all of her damages, and failure to provide them represented medical malpractice.

Author: Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor, and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.