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In the summer of 2005, our client was 24 3/7 weeks pregnant with twins. She and her 3-year-old son went to have dinner at a local restaurant. They parked their vehicle in the adjacent parking lot and walked into the restaurant at approximately 5:30 p.m. Unfortunately, the hole in which she fell on her way out of the restaurant after dinner was obscured by a vehicle that had stopped to let out a customer. At 6:30 p.m., after completing their dinner, our client left the restaurant. As they exited the door, a vehicle was stopped in front of their path waiting for another vehicle in a parking space to back out. As the stopped vehicle proceeded forward, the 3-year-old, holding his mother’s hand, pulled her a few steps into the parking lot. While her attention was focused to her right at the approaching car that had pulled out of the parking space, she stepped into and fell in a hole.
The hole in question was approximately 2.5 to 3 inches deep, at least 1 foot wide and 3 feet long. According to the unrebutted opinions of Plaintiffs’ engineering expert, the hole had existed in that condition for a substantial period of time. Moreover, the Defendants’ manager conceded in deposition that he had been aware of the hole and was keeping an eye on it so that at some point in time he could make the decision to have it repaired. Plaintiff’s engineering expert opined that the maintenance of this hole was negligent and that it was not open and obvious to our client under these circumstances.
Our client fell forward striking her left knee and abdomen. After she fell, she rolled onto her right side, pulled herself up into a seated position and kept her son close to her. She testified that she fell hard onto her abdomen. She complained to the paramedics at the scene that her abdomen was painful. Her left knee was bruised, scraped and painful, although the EMS report stated that she “rolled onto her right side.”
She was taken to a community hospital emergency room. An ultrasound indicated that her internal OS was dilated approximately 2 centimeters and her external OS was dilated to 1 centimeter or “fingertip” only. Her membranes were not bulging or “hour-glassing” through her cervix. Refusing to be discharged home, she asked her husband to drive her to a Level I hospital emergency room where she was admitted. Physical exam and ultrasound demonstrated a progression of her condition. At this time, she was 3.5 centimeters dilated and her membranes were “hour-glassing” through her cervix. The danger associated with “hour-glassing membranes” is bacterial contamination from the normal vaginal flora. As such, the physicians correctly prescribed antibiotics, steroids in case of premature delivery, placed her in a Trendelenberg position. and placed her on a monitor. Unfortunately, four days later, Twin A’s heartbeat become tachycardic. The presumptive diagnosis was chorioamnionitis which required her physicians to perform an emergency C-section. Twin A died at birth as a result of the infection. Twin B was septic, but survived after spending approximately nine months at the hospital.
Plaintiff’s medical expert was a board certified OB-GYN with a subspecialty in infectious disease. He opined that the impact to Plaintiff’s abdomen at the time of her fall was a cause of her accelerated cervical dilatation, hour-glassing of her membranes, and development of the chorioamnionitis which was responsible for Twin A’s death and Twin B’s premature delivery.
Defendant retained three medical experts. The first was an OB-GYN with a subspecialty in infectious diseases. He opined that the fall was not a cause of Twin B’s pre-term delivery, but merely a temporal coincidence. However, he conceded that in most patients chorioamnionitis does not occur without an open cervix. In the case of our client, it was his opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that her chorioamnionitis seeded at some point after her fall.
Defendant’s second expert was a placental pathologist and third expert was an OB-GYN at a trauma center whose opinions mirrored those of their first expert.
Plaintiff retained the services of a physiatrist who examined Twin B and opined that she suffered numerous injuries, including developmental delay, brain injury, and chronic respiratory distress requiring a trach and ventilator at various times during the day as well as a feeding tube. A pediatric neurologist confirmed the neurological injuries and both experts expressed the opinion that she would have a normal life expectancy with good medical care. A life care plan was prepared and an economist reduced the costs to present value.
The defense retained a life expectancy expert who opined that the child had a significantly reduced life expectancy.
The case settled after a full day of mediation, one week before trial.