January 2018 

Las Vegas: Prangle and Webster Receive Delayed Defense Verdict in $80M Birth Trauma Case with Help from HPS Appellate Team

Mike Prangle and Ken Webster recently received a defense verdict in a birth trauma case tried in July 2017. The plaintiff in the case alleged that the labor and delivery staff failed to timely and appropriately read fetal monitor strips that they claimed showed fetal distress, which plaintiff claimed led to a uterine rupture and an emergency C-section. The plaintiff also claimed that there was a negligent delay in intubating the baby after delivery because no one trained in doing an intubation was present at the delivery. Ultimately the baby was intubated by his father, who happened to be an anesthesiologist. Lastly, the plaintiff claimed that the care in the NICU was negligent in that the child was not sent for neonatal cooling. Plaintiff asked the jury for approximately $80 million.

The defense contended that at all points prior to the unforeseeable uterine rupture the fetal monitor strip was either category I or II and did not indicate that a C-section be done. Once the uterine rupture occurred an emergency C-section was performed within 15 minutes. There was an anesthesiologist present at the delivery, who would have had responsibility to intubate the child, but due to maternal hemorrhage, could not leave her side. Rather than call a Code Blue, the father volunteered to intubate his son, and he did so without difficulty. As to the NICU care, the defense contended that the child did not meet cooling criteria. Following the trial the jury concluded that the labor and delivery nurse and the OB were negligent, but agreed that the nurse’s conduct was not a legal cause of the injury. The jury agreed that the staff involved in the child’s resuscitation and in the NICU fully complied with the standard of care.

The jury, however, made an error when completing the verdict form, so judgment was not entered at the time of trial. After briefing and argument, the trial court agreed:

  1. the errors in the verdict form did not demonstrate an “inconsistent verdict"
  2. plaintiff waived their challenge to the alleged inconsistency by failing to ask that the jury continue to deliberate to resolve their errors, and
  3. even if the verdict was “inconsistent” the defendant was entitled to a Directed Verdict. 

Judgment will now be entered in favor of the defendant hospital. Jake Goldstein and Hugh Griffin provided immense assistance with the complicated post-trial briefing.