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Preterm labor not detected during visit with OB – Defense Verdict

On Feb. 12, 2007, the plaintiff mother presented to the defendant obstetrician at 26 weeks gestation with complaints of decreased fetal movement and cramping since the previous evening that was occurring every five minutes and lasting two minutes at the time of the appointment. In response, the defendant obstetrician evaluated the patient and, among other things, performed a cervical exam that demonstrated that the mother plaintiff’s cervix was long, closed and firm. Concluding that the mother plaintiff was not in preterm labor, the defendant obstetrician sent her home with instructions to follow up in two days. Approximately 12 hours later, the mother plaintiff delivered her son at home in her bathroom. The infant plaintiff developed permanent brain injuries, including a right-sided Grade IV intraventricular hemorrhage and periventricular leukomalacia.

Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in Newport News Circuit Court, alleging the defendant obstetrician breached the standard of care by failing to diagnose and treat preterm labor during the Feb. 12, 2007, appointment. Plaintiffs also alleged the defendant corporation was liable for the conduct of the defendant obstetrician. The defendants denied the allegations and the case proceeded to trial on Aug. 5, 2013.

Plaintiffs’ liability experts, Alessandro Ghidini, M.D., and Larry A. Nance, M.D., testified that the defendant obstetrician breached the standard of care by failing to diagnose preterm contractions by either placing the plaintiff mother on a fetal heart monitor or by placing her hands on the plaintiff mother’s abdomen. Dr. Ghidini and Dr. Nance further testified that the defendant obstetrician was required to perform multiple cervical examinations to determine whether the plaintiff mother was experiencing cervical change during an observation period.

Defendants’ liability experts, Wade Neiman, M.D., and Bonnie Dattel, M.D., testified that the defendant obstetrician met the standard of care by performing a cervical examination that allowed her to rule out preterm labor during the appointment.

Defendants’ experts further testified that the plaintiff mother’s labor began in the evening hours of Feb. 12, 2007, several hours after her appointment with the defendant obstetrician.

After a five-day trial and deliberation by the jury for one hour and 30 minutes, the jury returned a verdict for the defendants.

[13-T-133]

Type of action: Medical malpractice
Injuries alleged: Failure to diagnose and treat preterm labor
Court: Newport News Circuit Court
Tried before: Jury
Judge: Timothy S. Fisher
Date: Aug. 9, 2013
Demand: $4,000,000
Offer: None
Verdict or Settlement: Defense verdict
Attorneys for defendant: Richard L. Nagle and Garland B. Nagy, Fairfax
Insurance carrier: MagMutual

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