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Recent Medical Malpractice Rulings in the News

Apr9

In 2004, the highest court in New York changed state law to allow mothers to sue for emotional suffering for stillbirths, provided that the cause was medical malpractice. Prior to this, a mother could only sue for physical harm to herself, not for the emotional distress of losing her child.

Because of this legal change, two mothers filed medical malpractice lawsuits seeking compensation for emotional suffering caused by stillbirths due to medical malpractice.

Winning in court

According to a NY Times report, the first case involved an eight months pregnant woman sent home from Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn despite abdominal pains. While it was her third visit to the hospital for this problem, healthcare professionals failed to examine her and sent her home with painkillers. While at home, the woman went into labor and the baby did not survive. A jury awarded her one million dollars for emotional suffering, and the verdict was upheld on appeal.

This case set a precedent for the second case, which involved a pregnant woman who delivered a stillborn child at Lincoln Medical in the Bronx. Hospital staff failed to recognize signs of fetal distress and delayed an emergency Caesarean until it was too late. While Lincoln hospital lawyers offered the victim a $500,000 settlement, she decided to take the case to trial. Her attorney argued in court that the previous Brooklyn ruling set a benchmark for this case.

Both plaintiffs hope their litigation will discourage hospitals from providing negligent maternity care, and spare other mothers from the same pain and suffering.

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