Medical Malpractice Case Report: $250,000 for Wrongful Death of Newborn

Kathleen Flynn Peterson secured a medical malpractice settlement of $250,000 for the wrongful death of a newborn after failure of health care providers to diagnose signs of fetal distress and seek intervention. Read the following Minnesota Association for Justice Minnesota Case Report:

Selected Results*

(Excerpts taken with permission from Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association's (MTLA) "Minnesota Case Reports")

In July 2002, pregnant 34-year-old mother of two entered hospital for induction of labor. Previous pregnancies had resulted in spontaneous vaginal deliveries of newborns with weights of 8 pounds 6 ounces and 9 pounds 8 ounces.  Delivery this time, however, would be induced with Pitocin due to an estimated fetal weight of 10 pounds 9 ounces and gestational age of 41-plus weeks.

After mom was fully dilated, delivery did not progress as expected and the fetal monitor showed increasing signs of fetal distress. The relatively inexperienced family physician in charge of the delivery failed to appreciate the signs of fetal distress and did not order any interventions, including giving his patient oxygen, turning his patient, or shutting off the Pitocin.  The OB nurses assisting the physician did not initiate or suggest any interventions.

After approximately 25 minutes of increasingly ominous signs of fetal distress, the physician ordered the nurse to notify the OB for assistance.  The OB arrived approximately 20 minutes later and an emergency cesarean section was performed. The OB found that the uterus had ruptured and that the infant was more than 50% outside the uterus and not breathing.  Efforts to resuscitate the newborn failed.

The defense primarily contested the case on causation grounds, relying on textbooks that stated that the mortality rate in the setting of rupture of an unscarred uterus was approximately 70%.  Plaintiffs countered this defense by cross-examining the defense causation expert on every article cited by the textbooks.  Those articles suggested that the mortality rate in modern practice was less than 50%.

The case settled a few weeks before trial for $250,000, which represented 50% of the statutory cap in Wisconsin of $500,000 for wrongful death of minors.


Case Name: Doe v. Family Practice Physician and OB|GYN
Date: February,  2007
Attorney: William J. Maddix
Kathleen Flynn Peterson