Medical Verdicts

Did c-section delay cause infant death?


Fresno County (Calif) Superior Court

A 30-year-old woman presented for a vaginal birth after cesarean section. Immediately after the woman had intense burning pain with bright red blood and the fetal heart monitor recorded a precipitous drop in fetal heart rate, the Ob attempted a vacuum delivery, which was unsuccessful because the infant’s head had moved upwards. An emergency cesarean section ensued. The infant was acidotic, depressed, with very low Apgar scores, and was diagnosed with global hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and died 10 weeks later.

In suing, the woman asserted that the physician waited too long to perform the cesarean section; failed to inform her during prenatal care of the risks of VBAC; and failed to recognize that the fetal monitor strips indicated an impending uterine rupture.

The physician claimed the cesarean section was performed within 30 minutes of the decision to go that route, a delay that is within ACOG guidelines. Additionally, the physician contended the woman was likely aware of the risks of VBAC, as this was her 3rd such delivery.

  • The jury returned a defense verdict.
The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn ( The available information about the cases presented here is sometimes incomplete; thus, pertinent details of a given situation may be unavailable. Moreover, the cases may or may not have merit. Nevertheless, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation and are meant to illustrate nationwide variation in jury verdicts and awards.

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