The South Carolina Supreme Court recently affirmed a trial court jury verdict favoring a mother whose son died prior to birth at 32 weeks gestation. She alleged medical malpractice by her gynecologist, whom she said failed to take action in the weeks prior to that, when the child’s growth, fetal heartbeat and movements were abnormal and slow for a fetus of his size and age.
In the case of Jamison v. Hilton, the state supreme court refused a request by defendants to reverse a trial court order denying summary judgment and denying a request to issue a judgment notwithstanding verdict.
According to court records, plaintiff was already considered to have a high-risk pregnancy at the outset, as she suffered from chronic hypertension.
Defendant practice assumed prenatal care of plaintiff about halfway through her pregnancy, sometime in July 2008.
The following month, plaintiff rushed to the emergency room with complaints of abdominal pain. A physician at the practice attended her, found no evidence of preterm labor and sent her home. She returned for her checkup three weeks later, complaining of swelling in her ankle. Based on an examination, her doctor found no complications or dangers. There were no complaints of decreased fetal movement at that time, though he did instruct plaintiff to count the frequency of baby kicks periodically.
About a week later, plaintiff became concerned about the baby’s lack of movement. She arrived in the morning and waited an hour to be seen. Doctor determined based on examination and a series of tests that baby was breach and not moving as she normally should. Doctor sent plaintiff to the hospital emergency, with instructions to go straight to labor and delivery. It was a 5 minuted drive, the admission process took 30 minutes and then another 10 minutes before nurses arrived to conduct an examination. There was no fetal heartbeat. A doctor arrived, and he also did not find a fetal heartbeat. He informed plaintiff the child was deceased. A C-section was performed later that day, and no cause of death was determined.
Plaintiff sued several doctors at the practice as well as the practice itself for medical malpractice.
Evidence showed baby died sometime between 11 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. on the day she was admitted to the hospital. She had arrived at her doctor’s office at 8 a.m. that morning. His death, she asserted, was foreseeable based on evidence child was not properly growing and didn’t have a regular heartbeat in the weeks prior to his death. Further, she asserted had the doctors taken a more active role in getting her immediately to the hospital to have the C-section, the child likely would have survived.
Expert witnesses for plaintiff testified there were delays in testing, responding to those tests and in getting plaintiff to the hospital that had an impact on the outcome of this case.
At trial, jurors found that while no one doctor was liable, the practice itself was and jury awarded plaintiff $90,000.
Practice appealed, arguing the finding of no liability by its doctors prevented any finding of vicarious liability against it, and further the record did not support the finding of liability.
The state supreme court, however, looked at the expert witness testimony as provided by plaintiff and found the verdict was supported, and therefore affirmed.
Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
Jamison v. Hilton, July 15, 2015, South Carolina Supreme Court
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Rickerson v. Karl – South Carolina Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Technicalities, June 17, 2015, Anderson Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog