On December 13, 2019, an Atlanta medical malpractice jury deliberated for about an hour before returning a defense verdict in favor of an OB/GYN, a maternal fetal medicine specialist, and a nurse-midwife. The plaintiff had alleged that the defendants failed to perform a cerclage procedure for her incompetent cervix while she was pregnant, resulting in premature birth. The defense was worried when the plaintiff showed up for trial while she was 32 weeks pregnant, having undergone a cerclage for that pregnancy, but the defense attorney explained to the jury that the plaintiff was a candidate for a cerclage during this most recent pregnancy because she had the prior premature baby. A cerclage involves stitching the cervix to keep it shut.
The plaintiff had gone to the DeKalb Medical Center in June 2015, complaining of a headache and vaginal bleeding. The emergency room physician examined the plaintiff and ordered a sonogram, which reportedly resulted in concern that the plaintiff had an incompetent cervix and was at risk for premature labor. The plaintiff was admitted to the labor and delivery unit but returned home after only a few hours because she had to care for a child at home (the plaintiff had gone to the ER with another child, who was delivered earlier that year).
The plaintiff later returned to the hospital and was seen by an OB/GYN, who did not perform a pelvic exam due to concern that the plaintiff’s membranes could be ruptured or she could acquire an infection. The OB/GYN referred the plaintiff to a maternal fetal medicine specialist (MFM). Because the MFM was unavailable at that time, the MFM’s nurse-midwife examined the plaintiff and reported back to the MFM, who did not examine the plaintiff before instructing that the plaintiff be discharged and instructed to return to see him in a few days.
That night, the plaintiff went into labor and gave birth in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The premature baby died a few hours after arriving at the hospital.
The defense argued that the plaintiff was not a candidate for cerclage because she had successfully given birth to two full term babies without complications in the past. After the demise of the premature baby, the plaintiff had another preterm baby, which is the focus of an unrelated Georgia medical malpractice lawsuit.
There was no settlement offer before trial. The plaintiff’s Georgia medical malpractice lawyer asked the jury to award between $4 million and $6 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiff.
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