Williams v. Defendant Physician and Professional Corporation

Synopsis:

Dick Donohue, Karen Kies DeGrand and Meagan VanderWeele convinced the appellate court to affirm a judgment entered on a jury verdict in a wrongful pregnancy action. The court rejected plaintiffs’ argument that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence or the product of evidentiary or instructional error.

The plaintiffs, individually and as parents and next friend of a child born with sickle cell disease following a sterilization procedure, sued the defendants for medical negligence. At trial, plaintiffs contended that the physician negligently performed a tubal ligation only on the plaintiff mother’s right side, and that she subsequently became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter as a result of the failure to ligate the left side fallopian tube. Defendants argued that the physician complied with the standard of care in performing the procedure only on plaintiff’s right side based on plaintiff’s consistently recorded medical history of having her left fallopian tube and ovary removed years earlier.

The appellate court found that, at trial, defendants presented sufficient evidence to rebut plaintiffs’ standard of care and proximate causation claims. The appellate court noted that, in addition to the reported history of plaintiff’s left side fallopian tube removal, thick adhesions found on the left side during surgery supported the physician’s judgment call to leave the adhesions intact rather than to cut through them to confirm plaintiff’s history by visualizing the left side of uterus, which would have placed plaintiff at significant risk. In addition, the appellate court found no error in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings or in the trial court’s instructions to the jury, including to consider whether plaintiff’s inaccurate medical history, and not the physician’s conduct, constituted the sole proximate cause of the failed tubal ligation.   

Practice