After a week-and-a-half of testimony, a Washington County jury deliberated less than two hours Wednesday before clearing two local doctors and Marietta Memorial Hospital of any liability in a medical malpractice case.
The case surrounded a 2001 emergency delivery of a child at the hospital that included a rare medical procedure and allegedly left the newborn with permanent nerve damage.
Attorneys representing the delivering doctors, Curtis D. White, MD, and Warren L. Cooper, MD, of Marietta Gynecologic Associates, argued there was no deviation from the standard of care and that the injury was unpredictable. To back up their case, they called several doctors to testify during the trial-at least three of whom literally wrote the book on obstetrics and delivery care.
Attorney Pat Smith, representing the doctors, said the credibility in the case was with the doctors he called to the stand, including Mark Landon, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Ohio State University Medical Center.
"He's the editor of the textbook on obstetrics and written tons of articles," Smith said.
Egan Kilbane, an attorney representing the child, Lindsey Cross, said the injury that left her without the use of her right arm was "a foreseeable and preventable complication." The suit was seeking $800,000 to $900,000 for future medical expenses for the child, plus $1 million to $1.7 million in projected wage losses and $624,000 for pain and suffering.
"If you don't demand better care in your community you will never get it," Kilbane said during his closing argument on Wednesday. "If you don't hold the people responsible, we all pay for this error."
Smith said the only doctor who questioned the care provided was a doctor called by the plaintiff. He said the plaintiff's doctor has a "general practice" and spends a great deal of time reviewing cases and testifying in malpractice cases.
"Just because someone says (there was a deviation from the standard of care), that's not enough," Smith said. "Where's the substance behind it?"
White and Cooper have been practicing in the area since the early 1980s and have delivered thousands of children, according to their attorneys.
According to the plaintiffs, the hospital's delivery nurse administered too much of a drug, which caused contractions to come on too strong and too fast, resulting in fetal distress. They agreed that when Cooper arrived to deliver the child, she was in grave danger.
According to testimony, Cooper attempted several maneuvers and procedures to deliver the child, including the use of a vacuum extractor. The plaintiffs argued Cooper applied the vacuum when the child was too high in the birth canal, which could have put too much traction on the nerves in the child's neck, resulting in the injury.
That claim was dismissed by defense attorneys, who said the child was in an appropriate stage of delivery based on the fact the child's head delivered with just one pull.
Ultimately, Cooper was forced to perform an extremely rare medical procedure called the Zavanelli maneuver. The testimony in the case was that the child's shoulders were too large to navigate the birth canal. As a result, Cooper pushed the fetal head back into the birth canal in order to deliver the child via cesarean section.
Without the procedure, the child was likely to suffer significant brain injury or death, according to the defense.