A stillbirth occurs when a baby dies after the 20th week of pregnancy. According to the March of Dimes, this tragic event happens in about one out of every 160 pregnancies in the United States. It can be caused by a number of factors, including birth defects, problems with the placenta, infections, umbilical cord issues, and chronic health conditions in the mother.
Sometimes, a stillbirth is not preventable. Other times, it may be possible to save the baby if appropriate measures are taken by the mother’s physicians and other medical personnel. A recent decision by the South Carolina Court of Appeals addressed a case in which a mother whose son was stillborn alleged that her doctors’ negligence caused her son’s death.
The Facts of the Case
In the case of Jamison v. Hilton, the plaintiff was a woman who delivered a stillborn infant via Caesarean section after the baby’s heart stopped beating at 32 weeks gestation. She sued two of her doctors and their obstetrical practice, claiming that her son’s death could have been prevented if they had complied with the applicable standard of care.
The case proceeded to a jury trial. Although the jury found that neither of the physicians committed any negligence that proximately caused the damages claimed by the woman, it found that the practice was negligent and awarded the woman $90,000 in damages.
The Decision of the Court of Appeals
The practice appealed, arguing that the trial court should have granted its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). The appellate court disagreed, affirming the lower court’s judgment in the woman’s favor.
The court began its analysis with a review of the requirements for a successful medical malpractice lawsuit in South Carolina: a doctor-patient relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant(s); proof of the recognized and generally accepted standard of care exercised by competent physicians in the same branch of medicine; proof of a deviation from such standards by the defendant(s); an injury to the plaintiff; and proximate causation between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s injury.
As applied to the current case, the court found that the testimony of the experts at trial, particularly one doctor’s testimony pertaining to the delay in treatment, provided some evidence of negligence by employees of the practice other than the doctors whom the woman had named as defendants in the suit. Accordingly, the court held that the trial court was correct in ruling against the practice with regard to its JNOV motion.
To Speak to an Experienced South Carolina Malpractice Attorney
If you have been hurt or believe a family member has suffered a wrongful death due to an act of medical malpractice, the law firm of Patrick E. Knie can help. We thoroughly review each case to determine whether, and to what extent, an act of medical negligence may have caused harm to a patient. To schedule a free initial consultation concerning your case, phone us at 864-582-5118 and ask for an appointment. We have offices in both Spartanburg and Greenville and accept cases throughout South Carolina.
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