Woman reaches settlement with hospital for early discharge after giving birth at home

David Yates May 20, 2008, 8:00am

A settlement has been reached between a local hospital and a woman who claims she had to give birth at home after the hospital failed to recognize that she was in labor.

Acting as next of friend to her daughter, Sherri Bates sued Memorial Hermann Baptist Beaumont Hospital and two care givers on Nov. 13, 2007, claiming the hospital and its medical staff negligently failed to give her a vaginal exam to rule out labor during her visit. As the Southeast Texas Record reported in November, Bates claimed the baby fell to the floor during home delivery after she was prematurely discharged from the hospital.

Jefferson County District Court Judge Bob Wortham approved a settlement between the plaintiffs and the hospital on April 28.

"The compromise and settlement is fair, equitable, reasonable, appropriate and desirable from the standpoint of all parties, including (the minor plaintiff)," the ruling stated.

"Minor Plaintiff will recover against Defendant Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas $30,000 allocated as agreed to by all parties…"

The ruling states $10,000 will be paid to the Weller, Green, Toups & Terrell law firm for representing Bates; and $20,000 will be paid to the "clerk of this Court in accordance with Texas Property Code Chapter 142."

According to the Property Code, in a suit in which a minor is represented by a next friend or an appointed guardian ad litem, the court may provide by decree for the investment of funds accruing to the minor under the judgment in the suit.

"Additionally, Defendant will pay Guardian Ad Litem fees of $2,500 to Scott W. Browne," the ruling states. "This is intended to be a final order disposing of all claims of Plaintiffs."

A guardian ad litem is a person appointed by the court to protect the interest of a ward in a legal proceeding.

Bates' original medical-malpractice lawsuit also named nurse Josi Rawls and Dr. Joanne Holder as defendants. The ruling did not say if the two other defendants in the suit settled.

According to Bates' petition, on Nov. 8, 2005, Bates, who was 34 weeks pregnant, was admitted to Baptist Beaumont with signs of being "in active labor." Dr. Holder was paged and given a report about the patient.

Dr. Holder proceeded to give an order for Bates to be discharged, "despite no vaginal exam done to rule out labor, no evaluation of her elevated blood pressure to rule out pregnancy induced hypertension, and with only 'labor precautions' and a prescription for Macrobid given to plaintiff," the suit said.

Bates' petition says she returned to the hospital later that afternoon having delivered the baby at home and told staff that the baby literally "fell to the floor upon delivery."

The suit stated that the hospital is liable for damages under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which is based on the premise that an employer is responsible for damages caused by an employee.

"Memorial Hermann Baptist…failed to use the ordinary care in providing treatment for plaintiffs that reasonable and prudent hospitals of the same or similar level of certification would have employed under the same or similar circumstances," the suit said.

Case No. B180-742

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