$285,000 – Negligent Hospital Discharge Following Caesarean Section

This was a medical malpractice action brought against the defendant ob/gyn as well as the defendant's professional practice group after the delivery of a healthy baby to the plaintiff via Caesarean section.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant negligently discharged her from the hospital with an elevated temperature and failed to diagnose a pelvic abscess. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendant failed to timely drain the pelvic abscess once it was diagnosed, resulting in permanent infertility. The defendant denied that the plaintiff suffered from a pelvic abscess at the time she was discharged from the hospital.

Michael F. Barrett Ara Richard Avrigian

The plaintiff's baby was delivered via C-section on August 14, 1992, without incident. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital by the defendant on August 18, 1992, with an elevated temperature. On the date of discharge, the plaintiff's temperature readings were 99 degrees Fahrenheit to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. On the previous day, her temperature was 101 degrees Fahrenheit. The defendant discharged the plaintiff with the presumptive diagnosis of urinary tract infection and prescribed oral antibiotics.

While at home, the plaintiff continued to experience elevated temperatures, pelvic and back pain and diarrhea. The plaintiff contended that all but one of her post-discharge calls to the defendant practice group went unanswered. On Saturday, August 22, 1992, the plaintiff successfully reached the defendant practice group and was advised by another member of the ob/gyn group to call on Monday, August 24, 1992, if she was not feeling better. On August 24, 1992, the plaintiff was admitted through the emergency room to the hospital and diagnosed with a pelvic abscess. The abscess was not surgically drained until August 31, 1992, seven days after readmission. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital on September 7, 1992.

The plaintiff's expert ob/gyn opined that the defendant was negligent in discharging the plaintiff following the Caesarean section with a fever and in failing to investigate and test for the cause of the fever. The plaintiff also contended that the defendant was negligent in presuming that the plaintiff's elevated temperature was caused by a urinary tract infection and in failing to make appropriate plans for follow-up care. The plaintiff's medical expert testified that the plaintiff should have had urine analysis and temperature checks following her discharge. The plaintiff also contended that the defendant negligently failed to perform definitive surgical drainage for seven days following the diagnosis of the pelvic abscess and infection.

The plaintiff alleged that the negligent delay of six days until the diagnosis of a pelvic abscess and infection was made and a further seven day delay until definitive surgical treatment was rendered resulted directly in the necessity for the plaintiff to undergo surgeries, causing infertility and the necessity for in-vitro fertilization. The plaintiff was able to give birth to twins in 1998 following in-vitro fertilization.

The defendants denied that the plaintiff suffered from a pelvic abscess at the time she was discharged from the hospital. The defendants maintained that the plaintiff was reasonably diagnosed with urinary tract infection based on the evidence available at the time. The defense also contended that appropriate antibiotic therapy was initiated as soon as the plaintiff's pelvic condition was diagnosed.

The jury found for the plaintiffs in the amount of $285,000. The award included $200,000 to the plaintiff wife and $85,000 to her husband for his loss of consortium claim. A Petition for Delay Damages in the amount of $21,679 is pending.

REFERENCE
Plaintiffs' ob/gyn: Alfred L. Kalodner from Blue Bell. Defendants' ob/gyn: Luigi Mastroianni, Jr., from Philadelphia.

Rota vs. Partners in Womens Health, et al. Case no. 1997-08-425; Judge Frederica A. Massiah-Jackson, 10-99.

Attorneys for plaintiff: Michael F. Barrett and Ara Richard Avrigian of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C. in Philadelphia; Attorneys for defendants: William Mundy and Hugh O'Neill of McKissock & Hoffman, P.C. in Philadelphia.

COMMENTARY:
The defense vigorously argued that evidence pointed to a urinary tract infection at the time the plaintiff was discharged from the hospital on antibiotics and that her pelvic abscess developed sometime afterwards. However, the plaintiff maintained that it was incumbent upon the defendant to order diagnostic procedures which would have conclusively revealed the cause of the plaintiff's elevated temperatures. The plaintiff contended that the more serious pelvis abscess was of such duration that it would have been diagnosable at the time of discharge had the proper diagnostic steps been taken. The plaintiff also stressed the lack of a plan for post-discharge care and, in this regard, the jury may have considered the plaintiff's testimony that all but one of her numerous calls to the defendant practice group went unanswered. The successful birth of twins to the plaintiff some six years after this incident through use of in vitro fertilization could have served to limit the damage award to less than what may have otherwise been the case.

Related Attorneys

Michael F. Barrett
Michael F. Barrett Shareholder

Office: 215-575-2986

Ara R. Avrigian
Ara R. Avrigian Partner

Office: 215-575-2971