Court overturns malpractice award involving death of one twin and brain injury to a second
The Wilcoxson-Bey family filed suit against Providence Hospital, arguing that they lost one twin, and the other suffered severe brain damage, because of their treaters' failure to adequately monitor the twins' intrauterine development. The twin fetuses shared a single amniotic sac, raising a high risk of complications--usually involving entanglement of the umbilical cords. A judge heard the case without a jury at the request of both parties and ultimately found in favor of the family. The Court of Appeals reversed his decision, holding that he had based it on evidence of causation that was too speculative.
EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS DECISION HAS BEEN REVERSED ON APPEAL. REFER TO JUNE, 2009 ENTRY DESCRIBING THE HIGH COURT'S OPINION
The Plaintiff apparently proved that in this medical presentation, the twins should have been monitored by non-stress testing on an inpatient basis once each day. The treaters ordered monitoring only once every three days. The plaintiffs' expert physicians argued that appropriate monitory of monoamniotic twins can change the outcome and prevent the fetal death and brain damage that occurred.
The Defendants argued that since the damage can result in as little as 20 minutes, the Plaintiff could not prove that daily monitoring--or even three-times-daily monitoring--would have changed the outcome. The Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the trial judge's decision. Since the plaintiff's experts could not identify WHEN the injury occurred, they could not meet the plaintiff's legal burden of showing that compliance with the standard of care would have prevented the horrible outcome. Simply showing that the doctor did not meet the appropriate standard of care, and that meeting the standard of care might have saved the twins, was not enough under Michigan malpractice rules.