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Published On: Fri, Aug 4th, 2017

Atlanta Physicians Found Guilty Of Negligence In Pregnant Woman’s Post-Delivery Brain Damage Case

Having a baby is one of the most momentous and joyous experiences in the life of any young woman, but there are times when things don’t go as planned. Two Atlanta physicians were recently found negligent in the case of a young woman who suffered post-delivery brain damage. The court awarded the plaintiff nearly $46 million due to the incidents of the 2009 birth. Jurors finally handed down the award in the case of Trabue v Atlanta Women’s Specialists, LLC, et al.

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photo by Okan Caliskan via Pixabay

After fifteen hours of deliberation, the jury came back with a judgment for the plaintiff in the case. They ruled that the heart attack suffered by Shannon Trabue three days after her delivery, and the resulting brain damage, were both due to the negligence of her attending physicians. Stanley Angus and Rebecca Simonsen, both physicians of the group Atlanta Women’s Specialists obstetricians, were found liable for negligence.

The jury came back with an award of over $18 million for non-economic damages for Trabue and her husband and $9.8 million for economic damages. On August 25th of 2009, Trabue had a heart attack three days after delivering at Northside Hospital. The heart attack occurred while she was having an x-ray, and although she was resuscitated by hospital staff, she went without sufficient oxygen for over 10 minutes, which led to her brain injuries. The injuries were so extensive that she is no longer able to care for herself.

The reason that her husband claimed malpractice is because her doctors failed to monitor her blood pressure. As she had a history of preeclampsia during the pregnancy, the protocol would be to closely monitor her post-delivery, but her physicians did not do so. Her high blood pressure combined with fluid in her lungs, or pulmonary edema, led to a heart attack that rendered her permanently disabled. Trabue’s attorneys argued that her brain injuries were due to a lack of care on the part of Angus and Simonsen.

Trabue’s attorneys refused to put a cost to the extensive damages suffered by the couple, but  during summation they hinted at various calculations that the jury could use for guidance. A personal appeal was made by a brain injury lawyer Atlanta, to consider how much was lost not just in economic damages, but non-economic damages as well. The trial lasted for eight days as the plaintiff presented evidence that the heart attack could have been foreseeable and stopped if the physicians had performed proper monitoring.

The defense maintained that since the pulmonary embolism was likely the cause for the heart attack, there was no way for the physicians to predict that a heart attack was pending. Although they checked her heart condition, there was no way for the physician to know that an embolism would complicate matters and lead to the incidents that followed.

The jury would hear evidence that Trabue had complained of shortness of breath just before the hours of her heart attack, which was a telltale sign of pulmonary edema that should have been addressed immediately and could have prevented the heart attack that led to her brain damage. According to records, however, Angus had examined her at the time and noted that Trabue’s lungs sounded clear and that her oxygen saturations were within normal range.

Muddling the case were two experts who testified that it was a pulmonary embolism, not pulmonary edema, that caused the sudden nature of her heart attack. Countering the argument presented by the plaintiff, many of the medical records indicate that it wasn’t edema, which would have presented as a problem, but a pulmonary embolism, which can’t be detected through tests.

The sticking point in the case was the argument that the physicians didn’t address concerns with reasonable care to prevent the heart attack and that more extensive monitoring and testing should have been done to ensure Trabue’s safety post-delivery. Trabue’s attorneys argued that the erratic nature of her blood pressure should have been a sign of concern that something was amiss, and more critical care should have been initiated to save her from the brain injuries that resulted.

The jurors sided with the plaintiff and believed that had the physician’s taken further steps to figure out the cause of Trabue’s blood pressure fluctuations, they could have prevented the heart attack that caused the brain damage. It’s a hard call to make, as hindsight is really 20-20. Whether the award will hold up in appeals is yet to be determined, but for now, the verdict stands, and the Trabues feel as if their injuries have been vindicated.

Author: Ben Obirek

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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