Chris Meinhart of Meinhart Smith & Manning recently helped win a $7.44 million jury verdict for the family of a young mother who died after doctors failed to diagnose a severe urinary tract condition. Twenty-seven-year-old Jessica Butler was 19 weeks pregnant when she went to the emergency room at Baptist Hospital East, complaining of abdominal pain. Nurses consulted with her ob-gyn and sent her home with medication for a urinary tract infection. She was never examined by a doctor.
When Jessica’s condition worsened the next day, she returned to the hospital and was diagnosed with urosepsis – a serious condition in which a urinary tract infection spreads to the blood. During emergency surgery, the baby died and Jessica suffered a brain injury. She died four days later.
Jessica’s family and her estate filed a lawsuit against her ob-gyn, Dr. James Segal, and the hospital. The lawsuit claimed that because Jessica had previously had a kidney infection complication, the doctor should have examined her in person when she first went to the hospital.
During a nine-day trial, expert witnesses testified that the doctor should have seen Jessica and admitted her to the hospital. If that had happened, antibiotics would have been administered that would have saved her life and the baby’s life.
The jury found that both the hospital and Dr. Segal were at fault and assessed that fault as 60 percent to the hospital and 40 percent to Dr. Segal. Jessica’s estate was awarded $1.44 million, her husband was awarded $3 million for the loss of his wife and unborn daughter, and the couple’s other child was awarded $3 million for the loss of his mother.
The hospital settled the claims against it before the trial. The damages apportioned to the doctor totaled $2,976,000.