August 27, 2019, PNLR News | The American Association For Justice

August 27, 2019, PNLR News

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Failure to timely respond to fetal distress

photo of a woman hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor

Suit on behalf of a child who suffered a hypoxic-ischemic event before birth alleged that a hospital was liable for failing to timely diagnose and respond to fetal distress and perform a timely cesarean section. The jury awarded $23.5 million. Whiten v. Presence St. Joseph Hosp.-Chi.
 

During her pregnancy, Marquita Snow-Whiten was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital, suffering from abdominal pain. She was diagnosed as having a possible placental abruption and admitted for a 24-hour observation. She was later discharged and instructed that she could return to work. A subsequent nonstress test was nonreactive. Several days later, she returned to the hospital and reported that she had been kicked in the abdomen the day before. An examination showed dark brown blood clots in her vagina. Nurses placed Snow-Whiten on an electronic fetal monitor, which showed decreased variability and late decelerations. Approximately two hours later, a physician performed intrauterine resuscitation maneuvers, including administering oxygen and hydration. Fifteen minutes later, Snow-Whiten was taken to the operating room for an emergency cesarean section; however, the procedure did not begin for at least 45 minutes.

Snow-Whiten’s daughter was born with Apgar scores of two at one minute and six at five minutes. Now 4, she has extreme behavioral problems, is speech delayed, and is unable to dress or feed herself.

The child, through a representative, sued the hospital, alleging failure to timely diagnose and respond to fetal distress and perform a timely cesarean section. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant failed to properly interpret the nonstress test, perform the delivery three hours earlier to avoid a hypoxic-ischemic event, or alert surgical staff of the need for an immediate cesarean section when Snow-Whiten arrived in the operating room. Suit also alleged that the defendant failed to provide immediate head cooling after the delivery.

The jury awarded $23.5 million.

Citation: Whiten v. Presence St. Joseph Hosp.-Chi., No. 2015-L-006427 (Ill. Cir. Ct. Cook Cnty. Mar. 22, 2019).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Geoffrey Fieger, Southfield, Mich.; and AAJ members Jack Beam and Matthew Patterson, Chicago.