Type of action: Medical malpractice
Injuries alleged: Fetal death
Court: Henrico County Circuit Court
Case no.: CL19-6545
Name of judge or mediator: Judge John Marshall
Date resolved: 4/28/2021
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $3,000,000 plus interest from 4/24/2019
Attorneys for plaintiff (and city): Jonathan M. Petty
and Brielle M. Hunt, Richmond
Description of case: The plaintiff was a 30-year-old woman with an obstetrical history that included a prior stillbirth at 32 weeks of pregnancy, a prior C-section and a prior miscarriage. All of her prior care took place in India. She moved to the United States with her family in 2018 and shortly thereafter became pregnant. She received regular prenatal care and consulted with a maternal fetal medicine specialist during this pregnancy. The delivery plan was for repeat C-section at 39 weeks.
At 37 weeks, the plaintiff presented to the emergency department at Henrico Doctors Hospital with significant nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. She was monitored for several hours and released. Following discharge, she continued to experience worsening abdominal pain. Two nights later, she was again admitted to Henrico Doctors Hospital complaining of significant abdominal pain. She was seen for approximately five minutes by the defendant Dr. Sumac Diaz, an obstetrician hospitalist, and placed on the fetal heart monitor. During the 2.5 hours she was in the hospital, her abdominal pain worsened, the station of her baby descended into the pelvis and the fetal heart tracing changed from Category I (normal) to Category II (indeterminate). At approximately 1:30 a.m., Dr. Diaz decided to release the patient home with instructions to follow-up with her treating obstetrician in the morning. She continued to experience significant abdominal pain following discharge. At approximately 8 a.m., while in the car on the way to her OB, her uterus ruptured, causing the death of her baby boy at 37 weeks.
The plaintiff alleged that the patient’s history, increasing pain and changing fetal heart tracings required that she be kept in the hospital for further observation. Had she been monitored in the hospital instead of being sent home, emergency C-section likely would have saved her baby. Diaz claimed that abdominal discomfort is common in pregnant mothers during the third trimester of pregnancy, that the patient was not in labor and that there was no reason to keep her for observation.
The jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict of $3 million, allocating $1.5 million to the mother, $1 million to the father and $500,000 to the surviving sister of the deceased infant. No special damages were claimed. It is believed that this is the first plaintiff’s verdict in a medical malpractice case in Virginia since the onset of COVID.