June 2019 

Chicago: Hall and Babel Secure Defense Verdict In $40 Million Trial

In June 2019, HPS attorneys David Hall and Sabina Babel secured a defense verdict for a local teaching hospital in an intrapartum maternal death case involving the labor and delivery of a 40-year-old endocrinologist on December 9, 2012. Shortly after the first year OB resident performed an amniotomy and placed internal monitors, the patient became non-responsive. A crash c-section was performed during which a viable infant was delivered. The OR team was unable to elicit a pulse for the patient, so a Code Blue was called. Resuscitative efforts were discontinued, and the patient was pronounced dead. Her cause of death was determined to be an amniotic fluid embolism.

The plaintiff alleged that: the first year OB resident should not have performed the amniotomy without direct supervision by a chief resident or attending physician; the fetal head was not well-applied at the time of the amniotomy; and the first year OB resident directed the patient to self-apply fundal pressure during the amniotomy which caused the patient to develop an amniotic fluid embolism by increasing the intra-amniotic pressure gradient and/or causing trauma to the cervix and/or uterus which allowed the amniotic cells to enter the maternal bloodstream.

The defense successfully argued that as a first-year resident with at least five months of training, the OB resident was well-qualified and, in fact, expected to perform the amniotomy without direct supervision. The amniotomy and internal monitoring was indicated based on the fetal monitoring strips and was appropriately performed by the first-year resident, who complied with the standard of care. The resident did not direct the decedent to self-apply fundal pressure; even if she did, fundal pressure is acceptable during the performance of an amniotomy based on current medical literature. There is no dispute that the patient died from an amniotic fluid embolism, which is a rare, unpreventable, and undetectable condition that is often a fatal complication of pregnancy according to prevailing medical literature. The defense maintained that there was no evidence of an increased intra-amniotic pressure gradient or trauma to the cervix or uterus that supported plaintiff’s theory of the case.

During closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel, a partner at Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P., who had the enviable record of having never lost a medical malpractice case at trial, asked that the jury find in favor of the plaintiff and award damages in the amount of $30,050,000 to $40,150,000. Plaintiff’s damage claim was based on an 8 million lost wages claim, as well as the loss of society for the newborn baby, another six-year-old son and her husband. Defense counsel asked that the jury find in favor of the defendant and award no damages. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after approximately three and a half hours of deliberation ending the plaintiff’s counsel’s impressive record.