Court upholds jury vedict against family that sued for malpractice and wrongful death
The Estate of Isabella Koehn sued Central Michigan Community Hospital and two doctors after Gina Rae Koehn's pregnancy resulted in a still-born child at 37 weeks. Ms. Koehn was a diabetic and labor progressed normally until the child's shoulder became lodged behind Ms. Koehn's public bone as a result of its large size (9 pounds). This condition is known as shoulder dystocia and is a common complication that is even more common in diabetic mothers. The child died during delivery when delivery was delayed for about ten minutes.
The family argued that the treating doctors should have diagnosed and anticipated this complication, given Ms. Koehn's medical history and pregnancy visits. The jury did not accept the family's expert testimony and ruled against them at trial. The family appealed, arguing that they didn't get a fair trial because the judge would not allow them to present evidence of the family doctor's mistreatment of the pregnant woman's diabetes. They also argued that they were prejudiced by the judge's decision to allow one of the experts whom they had retained--but who disagreed in part with another expert's opinion--to testify against them. The Defendants used this doctor's testimony to corroborate the testimony of their own well-worn defense expert, Dr. Jeffrey Obron. (His name appears on behalf of insurance companies in most of the Michigan cases where shoulder dystocia is an issue.) The family also complained that the Defendants were allowed to call a radiologist whose qualifications did not match the Defendant's and that the judge erred by giving a non-standard jury instruction requested by the Defendants.
The reviewing court held that it was within the judge's discretion to prohibit any testimony regarding the improper management of diabetes during pregnancy, even though the defendants were fully informed of the claim, because counsel for the family had never formally filed the Amended Complaint which the Plaintiffs had been granted leave to file. The Court also found the remaining complaints raised by the family to be without legal merit.