Can I file a lawsuit against the hospital or doctor that incorrectly inserted the epidural to my daughter if she was under 22?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I file a lawsuit against the hospital or doctor that incorrectly inserted the epidural to my daughter if she was under 22?

About 6 months ago, my 20 year old daughter who still lived with me went into the hospital to have her labor induced. They began her induction which resulted in a lot of pain and led her into asking for an epidural. This is nothing unusual so far, until the epidural was being inserted. She had had one

before with her son so she recalls that the insertion was very smooth during his but the one was different. She said that it felt like the doctor was forcefully screwing it into her back. Once it was inserted and the doctor left the room, then everything started to go bad. She had a dead right leg and her heart rate and oxygen levels became dangerous. She was given something to slow down her labor about 12 hours later because the baby’s heart rate was getting dangerous. My daughter was already using an oxygen mask and she still had no control or feeling in her right leg. This is about the time the nurse got concerned. When the head anestigiologist came in to check her epidural, he left

not even 5 minutes later saying something about it wasn’t done correctly. In less than 10 minutes after that, she was being taken into surgery for an emergency C-section. There was still more irregular complications occurring after the baby was delivered. Can I begin a lawsuit for her? She is having some issues with depression since this all occured and CFS removed her children from her care and are trying to take her parental rights away.

Asked on December 10, 2017 under Malpractice Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

1) Unless she has been declared legally incompetent and you have been appointed her guardian by the courts, you cannot sue on her behalf. One adult cannot sue on behalf of another compenent adult, even a child, even with that person's permission. It is her claim: she has to bring it. (Obviously, you can help her, but she's the one who has to either hire the lawyer--even if you provide the payment--and have the lawyer sue for her, or else file the suit herself or "pro se.")
2) It may not be worth suing: malpractice suits are very expensive. Over and above the attorney's fees (and having a lawyer is *strongly* recommended), you MUST have at least one medical expert (e.g. doctor) who examines the patient, writes a report, and if necessary testifies. That, plus any tests required, can cost several thousand dollars--medical experts do not work for free. However, the amount of money you can recover is related to the additional medical costs (out of pocket or not paid by insurance costs) incurred due to the malpractice and the severity  and duration of any harm or injuries, with only significant life impairment lasting months or longer resulting in any appreciable compensation. Therefore if, as we hope, your daughter has or is making a full recovery and the baby is fine, you and/or she could spend more on the suit than she will win. 
Many malpractice attorneys provide a free initial consultation to evaluate a case; you can confirm this before making an appointment. It is likely worth meeting/talking with a malpractice attorney, but be prepared that unless you daughter or grandchild suffered some serious long-lasting harm, that the case may not be economically worthwhile.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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