Harrell v. Anonymous Hospital
Dr. Fagel achieved a settlement of $6,000,000 on the behalf
of a child who suffers moderate cerebral palsy resulting from injuries that
occurred during the birth process. Six weeks before delivery, a judge issued an
order to suspend the mother’s obstetrician’s medical license after an
investigation by the California Medical Board. However, the order was stayed
with the requirement that the OB have a proctor for all his surgeries. The OB
notified each of the hospitals where he worked about the order, but the
defendant hospital did not inform the labor and delivery unit about the
requirement. As a result, when the mother entered the hospital for delivery,
none of the nurses were aware about the OB’s restriction of privileges.
The OB examined the mother and diagnosed a compound
presentation with the fetal hand emerging alongside the head. However, the OB
then left the hospital without taking action to treat this potentially
dangerous condition. Shortly after, nurses discovered fetal heart
irregularities and called the OB, who ordered a C-section. 15 minutes later,
the OB arrived with another OB, who he claimed was his proctor, but at the time
was only identified as the assistant surgeon (Later at the deposition, the
assistant surgeon denied that he was a proctor and claimed he knew nothing of
the OB’s restricted privileges). The plaintiff was eventually delivered with
severely low vital signs and was intubated after the hospital resuscitation
team failed to do so on several attempts. The baby was subsequently transferred
to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and diagnosed with cerebral palsy resulting
from severe oxygen deprivation to the brain.
The defense contended that the judge’s order only required a
proctor for surgeries and did not specifically state that the OB’s privileges
were restricted in the labor and delivery unit. As such, the hospital was not
negligent for allowing the OB to perform a cesarean section without a proctor.
On the other hand, Dr. Fagel alleged that the restriction applied to cesarean
sections, as they are in fact a surgical procedure, and that the defendant
hospital therefore had an obligation to notify the labor and delivery unit
about the judge’s order. As such, the hospital created an unreasonable risk of
harm by failing to notify the L&D unit about the OB’s restricted privileges
and allowing the OB to take the mother to the operating room without a proctor.
In addition, the OB was negligent for not performing a C-section after the
initial finding of a compound presentation. Failure to treat the compound
presentation likely led to an umbilical cord prolapse, which was most likely
the source of the plaintiff’s injuries.