Opening arguments had been slated to begin in the case of Page v. Moses Taylor Hospital, a medical malpractice action in suburban New York following the death of two unborn twin girls in utero after their mother suffered from pre-eclampsia.
This dangerous condition occurs usually 20 weeks into gestation, and is characterized by high blood pressure. Even a slightly high blood pressure can be an indication, and if left untreated, the condition can be fatal to both the unborn child and the mother. The only cure is immediate delivery of the baby. In this case, that cure came too late. According to court records, a seizure suffered by the mother caused the placenta to become detached from the womb. The girls were stillborn at nearly 34 weeks and the mother, then 29, was forced to undergo an emergency hysterectomy to stop the hemhorraging, meaning she can never have any more children.
Leading up to the trial date, the judge made a number of rulings that favored the plaintiff, including allowing an expert witness to testify about the pain experienced by the twin fetuses as they died in their mother’s womb. This was an essential element of the case that would have furthered her compensation for pain and suffering. The judge also ruled that despite protests from the defense, a preeclamptic stillbirth has a valid emotional effect on the mother. The defense had tried to argue in a motion in limine that any evidence of emotional distress should not be allowed to be presented to jurors.
Perhaps seeing the growing body of evidence against them, defendants chose to settle the case. Then, in a final blow to the defense, the judge declined to keep that $4.25 million settlement confidential. Defendants had argued that refusal to keep the settlement private would likely result in a hesitation of future medical malpractice defendants to settle cases before trial. However, the judge decided the value in making the settlement and court records public outweighed defense concerns.
As our Boca Raton medical malpractice lawyers know, these kinds of birth injuries occur with far too much frequency.
What is less common is a judge that allows the settlement details to be made public. The doctor had insisted he met the proper standard of care and was not responsible for the medical issue that led to this outcome.
In medical malpractice cases, the severity of injury does matter as far as ascertaining the amount of damages. However, the first thing that must be established is whether the medical provider violated the appropriate standard of care. Although a settlement agreement may not require the defendant to concede this fact, by making these records public, the judge is indicating there may be sufficient evidence that this was the case.
Pre-eclampsia may not be a preventable condition, but it is one that doctors should be able to detect and address before it results in this kind of a tragedy. That’s precisely what the plaintiff argued – that the physicians and hospital were liable because they failed to properly monitor her for the condition.
If you have been injured in Boca Raton medical malpractice, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Judge refuses to seal $4.25 million settlement in baby death case, Aug. 23, 2016, BY TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER, The Times-Tribune
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Liability Waiver Overcome With Evidence of Gross Negligence, Aug. 23, 2016, Boca Raton Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog