Not everyone wants to have kids, but many couples dream of having a big family with children to love and who can love each other. This is not how things went for one of my clients. (Identifying details have been changed.) My client was 27 years old. She was married and she and her husband had one child. They had dreamed of a household that was noisy with the sound of children playing and laughing. My client became pregnant - she and her family were thrilled. Sadly, she experienced symptoms consistent with a miscarriage, so she reported to the emergency room. She was told her blood work was consistent with being pregnant but that she was most likely having a miscarriage because no yolk sac could be identified in the uterus. (There should always be a yolk sac visible.) She was told to follow up with an obstetrician right away and sent home.
Like many people, her insurance required that she see her primary care doctor before seeing a specialist, so she made the first appointment she could. Her primary care doctor lacked appropriate knowledge and training. What he SHOULD have done was order an ultrasound to determine the location of the baby. He should have IMMEDIATELY recognized that blood work positive for pregnancy + no yolk sac is a potential emergency and have ordered an immediate ultrasound. The doctor dropped the ball. Instead of ordering an ultrasound, he ordered blood work which confirmed she was pregnant and the baby was growing. He repeated that blood work week after week, which consistently showed a growing baby, but never checked to see the source of the miscarriage symptoms that caused her to go to the emergency room in the first place. He never looked for a yolk sac. Ultimately, my client was rushed to the emergency room in serious pain - her baby had been growing in her fallopian tube and the fallopian tube had ruptured. My client ended up having a complete hysterectomy and can no longer have children. The emotional consequences have been devastating.
How We Helped
When our client first called, she reported she had hired a lawyer already, that they had reviewed her medical records, and that they said she didn't have a case. They told her she'd have to find a new lawyer. This admittedly happens from time to time, but this lawyer had sat her her file for years and the office dropped this bomb on our client's lap just weeks before her statute of limitations ran. (Moral of the story - always hire an experienced medical malpractice attorney!) We jumped into gear, gathering her records and engaging an obstetrician to review the case. His opinion was that this was a clear case of medical negligence. The primary care doctor should have either referred the patient to someone who knew what they were doing, or they should have recognized our client was having an obstetric emergency and rushed her to get an ultrasound. Our client's tragedy was entirely preventable. The doctor was employed by the United States, so we immediately initiated proceedings under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Justice At Last
When this dispute was filed in Federal Court, the United States put up a fight. The lawyers issued subpoenas to every doctor our client had ever seen. Finally, it came time for what we call Expert Disclosures. We disclosed to the United States a report prepared by our obstetrician that detailed all the ways our client had been failed. The US had 30 days to respond with their own expert's report. We expected that they would find someone who was willing to twist the facts in some sort of way to blame our client. Shockingly, the US couldn't find ANY doctor to defend what the doctor had done to our client. The US quickly agreed to mediate the case and offered a seven figure settlement. This is life-changing money for my client. She can now afford to pay for a surrogate or to pursue adoption. More importantly to our client, the doctor very graciously admitted the mistakes and provided my client with evidence that will make sure this mistake is never repeated in the facility where my client was treated.