Medical Verdicts

Fetal demise leads to award


Miami County (Ohio) Court of Common Pleas

Prenatal care for a 2nd pregnancy was uneventful until 35 weeks, when preterm labor began. The woman reported rhythmic cramping and increased vaginal pressure. Examination revealed she was dilated to 4 cm and the fetus was at the –1 station with 80% cervical effacement. She was sent home, but was later called and asked to return to the hospital for further examination, at which time she was admitted.

Preterm labor was confirmed and the fetal status was reassuring. She was given 2 doses of steroids during the hospitalization to increase lung maturity in case of early delivery. At discharge she was told to contact her physician’s office in case of decreased fetal movement or fluid leakage.

Two days later she called the office because of decreased fetal movement. The medical assistant told the mother that this change was normal as the infant moved down the birth canal and that as long as there was any movement, she did not have to follow up. (Experts for both the defense and the plaintiff testified that this statement was incorrect.) Another 2 days later the woman called the office again to report fluid leakage. The same medical assistant told her to stay home and that these symptoms were normal.

The woman came into the office for a routine visit the next day. Although the chart notes indicated a decrease in movement and regular contractions, during the case the physician claimed the woman reported adequate fetal movement and the woman claimed she was not having contractions. The woman was sent home; 4 days later she called back to report no fetal movement.

Fetal demise was diagnosed. Upon delivery, a nuchal cord was found.

In suing, the woman claimed that earlier intervention or continued monitoring would have resulted in a healthy infant.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $2.5 million.
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.

Next Article: