Medicolegal Issues

Mother dies after cesarean delivery: $4.5M verdict

Notable judgments and settlements


  • Brain-damaged child dies at age 2
  • Who or what was at fault for ureter injury?
  • Did excessive force cause child’s C7 injury?
  • Laparoscopic sheath and coils found at exploratory surgery
  • Discrepancy in fundal height; child has CP
  • NT scans misread, not reported; child has Down syndrome
  • Uterine rupture, baby dies: $2.15M award
  • Migrated IUD causes years of pain
  • Profoundly disabled child dies at age 5


Mother dies after cesarean delivery: $4.5M verdict
A 31-year-old woman gave birth to her first child by cesarean delivery. Over the next 3 days she reported nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and had an elevated heart rate. On day 4, she was discharged from the hospital. She went to the ObGyn’s office the next day and was told, after several hours, to return to the hospital. There she was found to have sepsis and acute renal failure. A transfer to another hospital was attempted that night, but she died during transport.

Estate's Claim: The ObGyn should have responded to her reported symptoms prior to discharge by ordering tests. The ObGyn should have called an ambulance to transport her to the hospital from his office.

Defendants’ Defense: The hospital settled for an undisclosed amount before the trial. The ObGyn claimed that there was no negligence in the patient’s treatment.

Verdict: A $4.5 million North Carolina verdict was returned.

Brain-damaged child dies at age 2
A woman was admitted to the hospital in labor. Ninety minutes later a nonreassuring fetal heart-rate tracing was noted. Two hours after that, the ObGyn decided to perform an emergency cesarean delivery.

The child was depressed at birth and required resuscitation. She was transferred to another hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where she was found to have had a severe and catastrophic brain injury. The child died at 2 years of age.

Parent's Claim: An emergency cesarean delivery should have been performed as soon as the fetal heart-rate tracing was found to be nonreassuring. The ObGyn failed to respond to phone calls from the nurses to report fetal distress.

Physician's Defense: The delivery was performed in a timely manner. Brain damage was due to encephalopathy that occurred prior to labor.

Verdict: A Mississippi defense verdict was returned.

Who or what was at fault for ureter injury?
A 45-year-old woman underwent hysterectomy performed by her ObGyn. During surgery, the patient’s ureter was injured. Several additional operations were needed to repair the injury.

Patient's Claim: The patient was not fully informed of the extent of the surgery or possible complications. The ObGyn was negligent in injuring the ureter.

Defendants' Defense: Three months after surgery, the physician entered notes into the patient’s chart that indicated that the ureter injuries were due to a defective monopolar device that had been provided by the hospital. Informed consent included surgical options and complications.

The hospital argued that its equipment was not defective; other surgeons had used the device without any problems. The ObGyn had not used the device before; any injuries were due to his inexperience and negligence.

Verdict: A $2 million South Carolina verdict was returned against the ObGyn. The hospital received a defense verdict.

Did excessive force cause child’s C7 injury?
During delivery, shoulder dystocia was encountered. The child has nerve root avulsion at C7 with damage to adjacent nerve trunks at C5–C6. As a result of the brachial plexus injury, the patient underwent cable grafting and muscle surgeries, but he has permanent weakness and dysfunction in his left arm.

Parent's Claim: Excessive force was used to deliver the child during manipulations for shoulder dystocia.

Physician's Defense: The ObGyn denied using excessive traction. She claimed that she had never used upward traction during a shoulder dystocia presentation. Suprapubic pressure, McRoberts’ maneuver, and delivery of the posterior arm were used. The damage occurred prior to delivery of the head.

Verdict An Illinois defense verdict was returned.

Laparoscopic sheath and coils found at exploratory surgery
In april 2007, a woman underwent a sterilization procedure (Essure) after which she reported pelvic pain. In September 2007, she consented to right salpingo-oophorectomy plus appendectomy. The ObGyn performed the surgery using a robotic device. After surgery, the pathology report indicated that the resected organs were normal and functional.

The patient moved to another state. She continued to have pain and sought treatment with another physician. A computed tomography (CT) scan more than 3 years after robotic surgery revealed foreign objects in the patient’s body. One full Essure coil, a non-fired coil, a second partial coil, and a robotic laparoscopy sheath were surgically removed.

Patient's Claim: The ObGyn was negligent in the performance of the sterilization and robotic surgery procedures. The healthy ovary and fallopian tube should not have been removed and caused her to have surgical menopause.

Physician's defense: The right ovary appeared diseased. The Essure device dropped the coils. The robot malfunctioned during the salpingo-oophorectomy.

Verdict: A $110,513 Oregon verdict was returned, including $10,500 in medical expenses and $100,000 for pain and mental anguish.

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