Obstetrics: Alabama High Court Clarifies Causation Standard for Stillborn Infant Wrongful-Death Claim

April 25, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​The Supreme Court of Alabama has granted a new trial in a wrongful-death suit for a stillborn infant, indicating that the trial court made a reversible error in not instructing the jury to consider the plaintiffs' contention that prompt diagnosis and treatment "would have placed the patient in a better position than he was in as a result of inferior medical care."

A couple whose child was stillborn in 2005 filed a claim against their obstetrician and his practice for wrongful death and breach of the standard of care. In the course of the pregnancy, the mother developed Fifth disease, caused by a parvovirus infection, which (while generally mild in children and adults) poses a risk to the fetus in the first half of pregnancy. The mother underwent an ultrasound on February 25, at about 19 weeks' gestation. According to the mother, the ultrasound technician told her that the ultrasound revealed abnormalities and that she would likely be referred to a perinatologist. However, the physician told the couple that the practice "could handle it here." He claimed at trial (contrary to the plaintiffs) that the mother asked about a referral but did not ask for...

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