Her attorneys report that a first-time single mother whose baby suffered catastrophic injuries because of untreated pre-eclampsia has settled her medical malpractice suit for $5.4 million.
John Edwards and Mary Kathryn Kurth of Edwards Kirby in Raleigh report that their 22-year-old client developed pre-eclampsia late in her pregnancy. At her routine prenatal appointment more than 38 weeks into her pregnancy, the woman displayed classic signs of pre-eclampsia—including elevated blood pressure, trace proteinuria, and severe headache—but was sent home and told to return in a week.
No additional testing was done, the attorneys said.
“She called the office the next day with concerns about her blood pressure and was reassured by a triage nurse that her blood pressure would be checked at her next appointment and that it could be elevated due to pain from a toothache,” the attorneys wrote in an email to Lawyers Weekly.
At her next appointment, a week later, the woman’s blood pressure was 161/111. Due to severe pre-eclampsia, she was sent to the hospital for induction of labor, where electronic fetal monitoring revealed a non-reassuring fetal heart rate pattern with no variability, signs that the baby needed immediate intervention.
“Despite these troubling signs, the labor and delivery nurses failed to ensure the on-call obstetrician came to the bedside—a violation of the hospital’s own policies,” the attorneys wrote. “It took nearly two hours for the on-call obstetrician to come see her.”
Upon arrival, the obstetrician ordered an emergency C-section. The attorneys said the baby was lifeless at birth and required full resuscitation measures, including intubation, and did not breathe on his own for nearly an hour. He entered a cooling protocol to preserve his brain function and was diagnosed with severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.
The plaintiffs alleged negligence by the obstetrician providing prenatal care, the on-call obstetrician, and the nurse who failed to call the on-call obstetrician.
“There were causation hurdles in the hospital case because of the lack of variability on the strip once the mother was admitted to the hospital,” the attorneys wrote. “This was an indicator that the injury to her child had occurred during the week that she had untreated pre-eclampsia. The timing of the injury based upon brain imaging also presented a causation hurdle as to the hospital case.”
The attorneys said the case settled early in mediation, with the obstetrician and its group paying just under their policy limits and the hospital contributing significantly.
SETTLEMENT REPORT — MEDICAL MALPRACTICE
Amount: $5.4 million
Injuries alleged: Birth injury arising from untreated pre-eclampsia and delay in C-section resulting in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, and global developmental delays
Case name: Withheld
Mediator: Raymond Owens Jr.
Date of settlement: May 2022
Most helpful experts: Dr. Baha Sibai of Houston, Texas and Dr. Derwin P. Gray of Chesapeake, Virginia
Insurance carrier: Withheld
Attorneys for plaintiff: John Edwards and Mary Kathryn Kurth of Edwards Kirby in Raleigh
Attorney(s) for defendant: Withheld