Defense Verdict In The Southern District Of New York
On May 3, 2017, after an emotional trial in federal court involving the alleged wrongful death of a 31-year-old mother of four, a jury delivered a unanimous verdict in favor of two defendant obstetricians represented by HPM&B partners Chuck Bach and Raphael Berman. The case had a potential jury judgment value of $15 million.
At trial, it was established that plaintiff’s decedent delivered her last two babies in the bathroom of her Spring Valley apartment. Plaintiff’s counsel claimed that decedent suffered a severe postpartum hemorrhage in 2004 and a fatal hemorrhage on October 11, 2007 immediately after delivering her fourth baby in the toilet. Mr. Bach’s cross-examination of plaintiff’s obstetrical expert revealed that the expert was a close personal friend of plaintiff’s attorney for over 50 years and had delivered the attorney’s children. The expert ultimately conceded that he could not be certain what caused decedent’s death given the fact that the family refused an autopsy for religious reasons. The case was venued in federal court because plaintiff sued a third physician employed by a federally-funded clinic, Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York, although HPM&B’s clients (who delivered obstetrical care pursuant to a contract with Refuah Health Center) were not covered under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Following the jury verdict in favor of HPM&B’s clients, Magistrate Judge Cott issued a 19 page decision adopting the advisory verdict in favor of the Government. The decision included the judge’s concerns about the potential bias of plaintiff’s obstetrical expert as revealed during cross-examination.
During the trial, Mr. Bach and Mr. Berman established that HPM&B’s clients met the standard of care, that the decedent’s last two “extramural” deliveries were not attributable to obstetrical malpractice, and that the cause of her death on October 11, 2007 was more likely a saddle embolus, a stroke, or a heart attack than a fatal hemorrhage, despite the fact that hemorrhage was listed as the cause of death on the death certificate and in medical records.