US District Court (Western DISTRICT of Wis)—At 30 weeks’ gestation, a gravida presented to the hospital with lower abdominal discomfort. A nurse examined her, but she received no ultrasound or electronic fetal monitoring, nor was an obstetrician consulted. The woman was instructed to go to a better-equipped medical center if she experienced further pain. Four hours after discharge, the patient presented to the recommended hospital, where she delivered an unresponsive infant via cesarean section. The child died about 10 days later.
In suing, the parents claimed the hospital staff failed to diagnose a partial placental abruption. Also, they said the fetus suffocated during the 4 hours between the examination and the cesarean delivery. The defendant claimed a proper exam was performed and argued an ultrasound would not have diagnosed an abruption. Further, the fetal heart tones were normal, obviating the need for electronic fetal monitoring. Moreover, the defendant asserted the parents were negligent for delaying their presentation to the hospital while the mother’s problems persisted. Ultimately, an intraventricular brain hemorrhage, a complication of preterm delivery, was the cause of the infant’s death, the defense purported.
The jury returned a defense verdict.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.