Anderson, Coe & King


Following a three-week trial in the Circuit Court of Frederick County, Maryland, Partners, J. Michael Sloneker and Jonathan A. Cusson, obtained defense verdicts for three emergency department nurses and Frederick Memorial Hospital in the matter of Dineen v. FMH, et al. The Plaintiffs alleged that their child was injured as a result of a failure to diagnose HELLP syndrome timely and deliver the baby before he sustained hypoxic injury. The Plaintiffs claimed in excess of $11,000,000 in economic and non-economic damages. Plaintiffs maintained that Defendants should have sent the mother, who was 36 weeks pregnant, directly to the Labor & Delivery department. However, the triage nurse, emergency department physicians and a consulting obstetrician thought her complaints, which included epigastric pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, were most likely gastrointestinal in nature. Therefore, she was admitted to the emergency department for evaluation. Later that morning, a nurse discovered that the baby's heart rate was lower than it had been previously. She alerted the emergency physician and a nurse from L&D. The baby was delivered 30 minutes later in cardiac arrest. The obstetrician who delivered the baby by emergency caesarean section found that the placenta had suddenly sheared off the uterine wall, depriving the baby of oxygen.

In defense of these claims, the Hospital and the nurses contended that the mother's signs and symptoms were more consistent with a gastrointestinal etiology than a pregnancy-related problem. Mr. Sloneker and Mr. Cusson successfully argued that there was no suggestion that her symptoms posed any danger to her unborn baby and it was reasonable to treat her in the emergency room for what was believed to be a medical problem and that her symptoms were not consistent with HELLP syndrome or any other obstetrical condition that would potentially harm the baby. The mother's blood pressure and other vital signs were normal, she was not in labor, her membranes were intact, she had no vaginal bleeding and was hemodynamically stable. Defense experts defended the actions and the judgments of the nurses in triaging the mother to the emergency department and evaluating her complaints in that area of the hospital.

Prior to trial, the trial judge granted a motion filed on behalf of the nurses and Hospital that precluded Plaintiffs from introducing evidence of past or future medical or life care expenses, ruling that those claims were barred by the statute of limitations as to the nurses and the Hospital.

After returning defense verdicts in favor of the nurses and the Hospital, the jury concluded that two of the physicians, represented by other counsel, were negligent and awarded damages to Plaintiffs of $3.9 million.


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