Medical Verdicts

Premature infant has CP: $14.5M verdict

Notable judgments and settlements



Premature infant has CP: $14.5M verdict
After learning that, 14 years earlier, a 36-year-old woman had undergone an emergency cesarean delivery at 32 weeks’ gestation, her health-care providers planned a cesarean delivery for the new pregnancy. The woman was admitted to the hospital in preterm labor. Three days later, she was discharged, but readmitted twice more over a 2-week period. At each admission, preterm labor was halted using medication and bed rest.

The patient’s water broke and she was admitted to the hospital at 25 weeks’ gestation, about a week after the previous admission. Shortly after admission, the patient asked about a cesarean delivery, but no action was taken. When her ObGyn arrived at the hospital 5 hours later, the patient asked for a cesarean delivery; the ObGyn said he wanted to wait to see how her labor was progressing. After 3 hours, the fetus showed signs of distress, and an emergency cesarean delivery was undertaken. The infant experienced a massive brain hemorrhage, resulting in cerebral palsy (CP). The child has cognitive delays, visual impairment, and additional problems; he will require lifelong care.

PARENTS’ CLAIM The ObGyn and hospital were negligent in discharging the woman from admission for preterm labor. Cesarean delivery should have been performed much earlier due to nonreassuring fetal heart tones. Severe variable decelerations caused cerebral blood flow fluctuations that led to the hemorrhage.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The child’s prematurity and a severe placental infection led to the injuries. Nothing would have changed the outcome.

VERDICT A $14.5 million Ohio verdict was returned, including $1.5 million for the mother.


Costs returned afterverdict for the defense
A 65-year-old woman
underwent a hysterectomy for treatment of uterine cancer performed by a gynecologic oncologist. Postoperatively, the patient developed an infection. A small-bowel injury was surgically repaired. The patient was hospitalized for 4 months for treatment of sepsis.

PARENTS’ CLAIM The physician was negligent for injuring the patient’s bowel and then failing to identify and repair the injury during surgery.

PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE There was no negligence. The patient had significant adhesions from prior surgeries. The physician noted minor serosal tears of the bowel, several of which were repaired during surgery. He checked the length of the bowel for tears/perforations several times during the procedure, but found none. The patient had areas of weakness in her bowel, one of which broke down after surgery. The perforation was repaired in a timely manner.

VERDICT A Michigan defense verdict was returned. The physician was awarded $14,535 in costs.


Colon injury after cystectomy
A 21-year-old woman underwent
laparoscopic ovarian cystectomy, performed by her gynecologist, and was discharged the next day. Eight days later, the patient went to the emergency department (ED) with pelvic pain. Testing revealed a perforated colon with peritonitis. She underwent repair by laparotomy, including bowel resection and colostomy, which was reversed several months later. She has not regained regular bowel function, cannot digest food that has not been finely sliced, and constantly uses laxatives.

PARENTS’ CLAIM The colon injury occurred during cystectomy because the gynecologist was negligent in failing to maintain proper anatomical landmarks. The injury should have been recognized at the time of surgery by injecting saline solution into the colon. She had not been informed of the risk of colon injury.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE Colon injury is a known complication of cystectomy. The injury could have occurred after surgery due to a minor nick of the colon that was undetectable during surgery. Proper informed consent was acquired.

VERDICT A $340,000 New York settlement was reached.


Mother hemorrhages, dies after delivery: $1M settlement
A 19-year-old woman presented at full term to a community hospital. After several hours of labor, an emergency cesarean delivery was performed due to arrested descent.

Fifteen minutes after delivery, the mother exhibited moderate bleeding with decreasing blood pressure and tachycardia. The post-anesthesia care unit nurse assessed the patient’s uterus as “boggy,” and alerted the ObGyn, who immediately reacted by expressing clots from the uterus. He noted that the fundus was firm. He ordered intravenous (IV) oxytocin, but the patient continued to hemorrhage. Fifteen minutes later, the patient’s vital signs worsened. The ObGyn ordered blood products, uterotonics, and an additional IV line for fluid resuscitation. He began to massage the fundus and expressed clots.

When the patient did not stabilize, she was returned to the OR. After attempting to stop the bleeding with O’Leary stitches, the ObGyn performed a hysterectomy. Six hours after surgery, and after transfusion of a total of 12 units of blood, the woman coded multiple times. She died 14 hours after delivery. Cause of death was disseminated intravascular coagulopathy caused by an atonic uterus.

Next Article: