October 25, 2016, PNLR E-Newsletter
Improper restraint during water birth
The plaintiffs charged that the hospital’s advertisements falsely emphasized that women could choose their own individualized birthing plans and could maintain freedom of movement during labor. Suit alleged that hospital nurses had grabbed the woman’s wrists and pressed her knee back during the delivery, resulting in a nerve injury. The jury awarded $16 million, including $5 million in punitive damages. Malatesta v. Brookwood Med. Ctr.
Caroline Malatesta was admitted to the Brookwood Medical Center to deliver her fourth child. Malatesta intended to have a natural water birth, a method of delivery discussed in the hospital’s promotional materials.
During the labor, one of Malatesta’s attending nurses instructed her to lie on her back. When Malatesta later moved onto her hands and knees during a contraction, the nurse grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands out from under her. Other nurses applied pressure to the baby’s head and pressed Malatesta’s knee back toward her chest before the delivery. As a result, Malatesta suffered left lateral trauma during the delivery, which led to a diagnosis of pudendal neuralgia, a nerve injury that causes her debilitating, probably life-long, pain.
Malatesta and her husband sued the hospital, alleging nursing negligence and reckless misrepresentation of fact in its marketing of health services. Among other things, the plaintiffs charged that the defendant’s advertisements falsely emphasized that women could choose their own individualized birthing plans and could maintain freedom of movement, if desired.
The jury awarded $16 million. The award includes $1 million to Malatesta’s husband and $5 million in punitive damages.
Citation: Malatesta v. Brookwood Med. Ctr., No. CV-14-900939 (Ala. Cir. Ct. Jefferson Cnty. Aug. 8, 2016).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members David H. Marsh and William “Rip” Andrews, both of Birmingham, Ala.
Plaintiff experts: Ashley Stewart, labor and delivery, Huntsville, Ala.; Carol Farris Upton, health care marketing, Amory, Miss.; Mark Conway, obstetrics & pudendal neuralgia, Merrimack, N.H.; and Nick Rubashkin, obstetrics, San Francisco.