Medical Verdicts

Missed placental abruption results in infant’fs quadriplegia


Kings County (NY) Supreme Court

Six days before her baby was due, a pregnant woman presented to a hospital complaining of abdominal pain.

Upon admission, fetal heart monitor tracings showed some decelerations. An hour and 15 minutes later, the tracing was nonreassuring. The obstetrical resident then ordered an emergency cesarean, but the attending obstetrician overruled the resident’s decision.

Approximately 1 hour later, the tracing became nonreassuring again. The obstetrician ordered an emergency cesarean, but the infant was not delivered until 46 minutes later. At delivery, a placental abruption of 20% was discovered. The infant, who was 5 years old at the time of the trial, is a quadriplegic.

In suing, the mother argued that the 46-minute delay in delivery was the physician’s fault. The obstetrician agreed that the delay was inexcusable, claiming that he did not recall why it occurred. The defense speculated, however, that the delay was due to a shortage of available anesthesia personnel.

The patient settled the case with the hospital for $6 million shortly before trial.

In the trial against the obstetrician, the woman argued that the doctor was negligent in delaying the cesarean. Further, the physician mistook her presenting abdominal pains for labor when, in fact, they were due to her placental abruption. She maintained that this misdiagnosis ultimately resulted in the child’s injuries.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $90.9 million.
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.

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