Woman dies from postpartum hemorrhage after hospital fails to timely deliver blood

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Case in Point

November 16, 2010

Woman dies from postpartum hemorrhage after hospital fails to timely deliver blood 

The woman’s husband alleged that the hospital was liable for its blood bank’s failure to deliver blood for life-saving surgery, that two obstetricians failed to timely perform surgery, and that the doctors failed to effectuate the patient’s timely transfer to another facility. The doctors settled, and the jury awarded about $4.62 million against the hospital. Calcagno v. Emery.

After giving birth at a hospital, Claudia Calcagno, 36, developed uterine atony—a loss of uterine muscle tone that can cause profuse bleeding. Her treating obstetrician, Timothy Olson, treated the condition with uterine massage and other measures. When Calcagno began to bleed significantly, however, nurses called Jennifer Emery, the on-call obstetrician, who instructed the hospital to send up all available blood. Calcagno then consented to a hysterectomy, which would have stopped the bleeding.

The hospital blood bank informed Olson and Emery that it had no blood available for Calcagno, whose type was A-negative. Deciding that they needed at least four units of blood in reserve before performing the surgery, the physicians opted to stabilize Calcagno and transfer her to a different facility. By the time she arrived there early the next morning, she was severely weakened from blood loss and died that day of postpartum hemorrhage.

Calcagno had been an executive assistant earning about $54,000 annually. She is survived by her husband and infant son.

Calcagno’s husband sued Olson and Emery, alleging they failed to timely perform the hysterectomy to stop Calcagno’s blood loss and failed to effectuate a timely transfer. He also alleged the hospital was liable for its blood bank’s failure to deliver blood for surgery that would have saved Calcagno’s life. The plaintiff claimed that the hospital’s blood bank had a total of eight units of A-positive and O-positive blood on hand that could have been used for Calcagno’s surgery. These alternatives were outlined on a chart that was posted on the blood bank’s storage refrigerator, he argued, but the technicians failed to refer to the chart.

The doctors settled before trial for a confidential amount. In the case against the hospital, the jury awarded about $4.62 million.

Citation: Calcagno v. Emery, No. 86-CV-09-5000 (Minn., Wright Co. Super. Oct. 21, 2010).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Kathleen Flynn Peterson and Brandon E. Thompson, both of Minneapolis.


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