On August 14, 2015, a Cook County jury returned a verdict in favor of a defendant obstetrician and hospital, represented by Sherri M. Arrigo and Richard H. Donohue.
Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants negligently failed to appreciate the significance of fetal heart tracing abnormalities during labor, failed to communicate with each other to ensure appropriate care, and failed to timely perform a caesarian section to deliver plaintiffs’ infant, proximately causing the death of the full-term baby girl on September 19, 2009, one day after her birth.
Plaintiff claimed that the attending obstetrician negligently failed to come to the labor and delivery unit to personally evaluate the patient, instead leaving resident physicians in charge of her care.
The defendants argued that the labor and delivery were managed appropriately within the standard of care, the attending physician was physically present in the hospital throughout the labor and was properly informed and involved in the patient’s care.
The defendants claimed that when the fetal heart tracings became non-reassuring while the mother was pushing, the defendants timely delivered the baby by vacuum assisted vaginal delivery as safely and quickly as possible. The defendants argued that the standard of care did not require a caesarian section at any time and that earlier delivery would not have made any difference in the outcome. The defendants argued that the baby died of fetal hydrops, an end manifestation of a serious problem in utero that results in abnormal fluid accumulation in two or more body cavities.
In this case, the baby girl was born with no signs of life and did not respond to resuscitation efforts until the neonatologist inserted a needle in her chest to drain fluid around the lungs. The defendants urged that the baby’s heart and lungs were compressed by fetal hydrops fluid, preventing her from making the transition to extra-uterine life and impeding the resuscitation. Plaintiffs’ expert claimed that the baby died from hypoxic ischemia that ultimately caused fetal hydrops to develop during the labor and delivery.
The plaintiffs’ expert testified that the hydrops was an “interesting but insignificant finding.” The defense experts explained that fetal hydrops takes at least days to weeks or months to develop and has a high mortality rate. The defense argued that it is medically and scientifically impossible for hydrops to occur as a result of anything that occurred during several hours during labor and delivery.
In closing arguments, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award nearly $1.9 million. After two hours of deliberations, including lunch, the jury found for the defendants.