Medical Verdicts

Membranes ruptured unintentionally


Suffolk County (NY) Supreme Court

A 21-year-old woman was admitted to a labor and delivery unit, and the on-call OB was called. Because of abnormal fetal monitor readings, the nurse requested immediate assistance from an available OB. That OB determined that the woman was dilated 5 cm, that her amniotic membrane was intact, and that the fetus was in a vertex position with a probable cord presentation. Upon his arrival, the on-call OB assumed care.

During another vaginal exam the membranes ruptured, necessitating an emergency c-section. The infant was born 18 minutes later with an Apgar score of 1 that remained at that level after 1, 5, 10, and 15 minutes.

The infant was eventually diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Now wheelchair-bound, the child has cerebral palsy, quadriparesis, and severe mental retardation, and cannot care for herself.

The mother alleged the birth canal exam ruptured the membranes, causing cord prolapse that resulted in asphyxiation. She claimed a delivery team member should have elevated the infant’s head off the cord.

The defense admitted that the vaginal exam ruptured the membranes, but maintained it was necessary to determine the exact status of the mother’s labor and to investigate for placental abruption.

  • The jury returned a defense verdict after the hospital settled for $2 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, Nashville, Tenn ( The available information about the cases is sometimes incomplete; pertinent details may be unavailable. Moreover, the cases may or may not have merit. Still, these cases represent types of clinical situations that may result in litigation and are meant to illustrate variation in verdicts and awards.

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