After a three-day trial and just over nine hours of deliberation, a Henrico County jury returned a verdict in the amount of three million dollars, plus interest, on behalf of our medical malpractice client following the death of her unborn son. The verdict, which came back on April 29, 2021, is Virginia’s first plaintiff’s medical malpractice verdict since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the largest reported verdict in the state involving the death of an unborn child.
Some background about the case
Our client and plaintiff was a 30-year-old woman with an obstetrical and medical history that included a prior stillbirth at 32 weeks, a prior caesarean section, and a prior miscarriage. Her prior medical care took place in India, and in 2018 she moved to the United States with her family. Shortly thereafter, she became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she received regular prenatal care and consulted with a maternal fetal medical specialist. The plaintiff’s birth plan was a c-section at 39 weeks.
The defendants were Dr. Sumac Diaz, an obstetrician, and her practice group OB Hospitalists, Inc.
Patient visits ER at 37 weeks
Thirty-seven weeks into her pregnancy, our client went to the Emergency Department at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital in Richmond, presenting with symptoms including significant nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Hospital staff monitored her for several hours and then discharged her. Following her release, she continued experiencing worsening abdominal pain.
Only two nights later, she was again admitted to Henrico Doctor’s Hospital, complaining of severe abdominal pain. She testified she was seen by a nurse, then approximately for five minutes by the defendant obstetrician, and placed on a fetal heart monitor. During the two-and-a-half hours our client was in the hospital, three incidents occurred:
- Her abdominal pain worsened
- The baby descended into the pelvis
- The fetal heart tracing changed from Category I (normal) to Category II (indeterminate)
At approximately 1:30am, the defendant made the decision to discharge the plaintiff, sending her home with instructions to follow up with her own obstetrician in the morning. However, she continued experiencing significant abdominal pain following her return home.
At approximately 8:00am, in the car on the way to her obstetrician, our client’s uterus ruptured, causing the death of her baby boy at 37 weeks into her pregnancy.
The outcome of the case
Attorneys Petty and Hunt alleged that our client’s medical history, ever-increasing abdominal pain, and the change in fetal heart tracing required that she remain in the hospital for further observation. They also successfully argued that, had she not been sent home, an emergency c-section would likely have saved the life of her baby. All of this is grounds for medical malpractice.
The defense claimed that abdominal discomfort is common in pregnant mothers during their third trimester and that the patient was not in labor, and for those reasons they did not feel they needed to keep her for observation.
After hearing each side, the jury deliberated for 9.5 hours before returning a verdict in favor of our client. They awarded $3 million to the family in medical malpractice compensatory damages, allocating $1.5 million to the mother, $1 million to the father, and $500,000 to the surviving sister of the deceased infant.
The legal team at Phelan Petty is proud to have achieved justice for this family, although no amount of money can undo the loss of their son. We work for all victims of medical malpractice in Richmond and throughout Virginia. To learn more about how we can help you, please call 804-980-7100, or fill out our contact form.
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Since 2004, Jonathan Petty has applied the deep knowledge and experience he gained working on the defense side of litigation to represent ordinary people injured by car accidents and truck accidents, medical malpractice, and defective products in Virginia. He has successfully tried medical malpractice and personal injury cases to verdict in courts throughout Virginia, and he has handled cases on behalf of both plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts across the country.