AFTER MORE THAN 4 HOURS of second-stage labor followed by prolonged pushing and crowning, the baby was born depressed. Later, the child was found to have cerebral palsy.
PARENTS’ CLAIM The ObGyn was negligent in failing to perform an episiotomy, not attempting vacuum extraction, and not using forceps to assist delivery. Although fetal heart-rate monitoring results deteriorated, the ObGyn did not assess contractions for 30 minutes at one point. Hospital staff members were unable to adequately intubate or ventilate the newborn. The hospital staff disposed of the baby’s cord blood. Records were altered.
The parents’ counsel proposed that the defendants’ insurance company refused all settlement efforts prior to trial because the case venue was known to be conservative regarding jury verdicts.
DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The hospital and the ObGyn were not negligent; the mother and baby received proper care. Hospital staff acted appropriately.
VERDICT During the trial, the hospital settled for an undisclosed amount. An additional $2 million was offered on behalf of the ObGyn later in the trial, but the parents refused settlement at that time.
A California jury returned a $74.525 million verdict against the ObGyn. The child was awarded $70.725 million for medical expenses, lost earnings, and damages. The parents were awarded $3.8 million for emotional distress.
Was ectopic pregnancy missed?
A WOMAN IN SEVERE ABDOMINAL PAIN saw her internist. CT scans revealed a right ovarian cyst. When pain continued, she saw her ObGyn 3 weeks later, and her bowel was full of hard stool. Ultrasonography (US) showed a multicystic right ovary and a thin endometrial stripe. She was taking birth control pills and her husband had a vasectomy. She was told her abdominal pain was from constipation and ovarian cysts. A week later, she had laparoscopic surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy.
PATIENT’S CLAIM The ObGyn did not perform a pregnancy test, and did not diagnose an ectopic pregnancy in a timely manner. An earlier diagnosis would have allowed medical rather than surgical resolution.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE It was too early to determine if the pregnancy was intrauterine or ectopic. An earlier diagnosis would have resulted in laparoscopic surgery rather than medical treatment, as the medication (methotrexate) can cause increased pain.
VERDICT An Illinois defense verdict was returned.
Foreshortened vagina inhibits intercourse
A 65-YEAR-OLD WOMAN underwent anterior and posterior colphorrhaphy to repair a cystocele and rectocele, sacrospinous ligament fixation for vaginal prolapse, and a TVT mid-urethral suspension procedure to correct stress urinary incontinence. During two follow-up visits, the gynecologist determined that she was healing normally.
Within the next few weeks, the patient came to believe that her vagina had been sewn shut. She did not return to her gynecologist, but sought treatment with another physician 6 months later. It was determined that she had a stenotic and foreshortened vagina.
PATIENT’S CLAIM Too much vaginal tissue was removed during surgery.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE The stenotic and foreshortened vagina was an unexpected result of the healing process after surgery.
VERDICT An Illinois defense verdict was returned.
Hydrocephalus in utero not seen until too late
A WOMAN HAD PRENATAL TREATMENT at a federally funded health clinic. A certified nurse midwife (CNM) ordered second-trimester US, with normal results. During the third trimester, the mother switched to a private ObGyn who ordered testing. US indicated the fetus was hydrocephalic. The child was born with cognitive disabilities and will need lifelong care.
PARENTS’ CLAIM The CNM ordered US too early in the pregnancy to be of diagnostic value; no further testing was undertaken. When hydrocephalus was seen, an abortion was not legally available because of fetal age.
DEFENDANT’S DEFENSE Even if US had been performed later in the second trimester, the defect would not have shown.
VERDICT A $4 million New Jersey settlement was reached.
WHEN SHOULDER DYSTOCIA WAS ENCOUNTERED, the ObGyn used standard maneuvers to deliver the child. The baby suffered a severe brachial plexus injury with rupture of C7 nerve and avulsions at C8 and T1.
Nerve-graft surgery at 6 months and tendon transfer surgery at 2 years resulted in recovery of good shoulder and elbow function, but the child has inadequate use of his wrist and hand. Additional surgeries are planned.
PARENTS’ CLAIM The ObGyn did not inform the mother that she was at risk for shoulder dystocia, nor did he discuss cesarean delivery. The mother’s risk factors included short stature, gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and two previous deliveries that involved vacuum assistance and a broken clavicle. The ObGyn applied excessive traction to the fetal head during delivery.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE The mother’s risk factors were not severe enough to consider the chance of shoulder dystocia. The baby’s injuries were due to the normal forces of labor. Traction placed on the baby’s head during delivery was gentle and appropriate.
VERDICT A $5.5 million Iowa verdict was returned.