Summary Judgment In Westchester County

HPM&B recently obtained Summary Judgment on behalf of an obstetrician/gynecologist and a hospital where plaintiff claimed that as a result of the negligence of the defendants, she was forced to undergo a dilation and evacuation procedure while pregnant, followed by a total hysterectomy because of extensive bleeding.

The plaintiff delivered a child vaginally in August 2007 at a local Westchester County hospital. The co-defendant obstetrician who performed the delivery manually removed the placenta and scraped the uterine lining with a horseshoe curette. An ultrasonography revealed no residual tissue, as well as an empty uterus.

Following her discharge from the hospital, plaintiff experienced bleeding and other post-discharge problems. A sonogram revealed the presence of retained products of conception, but plaintiff declined a recommended dilation and curettage procedure. Plaintiff then consulted the HPM&B’s defendant obstetrician/gynecologist, who also recommended surgery. During the procedure, placental remnants were removed from the fundus (top) of the uterus. Following the surgery, the patient’s symptomatology ceased.

Approximately one year later, plaintiff became pregnant again. Diagnostic testing revealed the presence of a placenta accreta in the lower uterine segment. In addition, a complete placenta previa was present, as well as a vascularized lower uterine segment. Plaintiff was then admitted to a tertiary care facility where she underwent a termination procedure by a different physician. After the procedure, she suffered a massive hemorrhage, requiring a total hysterectomy.

Plaintiff alleged that the hysterectomy and dilation and curettage performed by HPM&B’s client after the first pregnancy caused plaintiff to experience placenta accreta and placenta previa during the subsequent pregnancy.

HPM&B moved for Summary Judgment. In an affidavit, the defendant physician opined that he performed the surgery consistent with the standard of care, and that the placental tissue removed at that time was located in a different area (the top of the uterus) than the placenta accreta found during the subsequent pregnancy (the bottom of the uterus). .

In awarding Summary Judgment, the Supreme Court, Westchester County (Adler, J.), deemed plaintiff’s expert opinions conclusory in nature. The Court ruled that plaintiff’s expert failed to describe how the moving defendant physician’s departures contributed to the plaintiff’s placenta accreta and placenta previa in a subsequent pregnancy. The Court also held that the defendant hospital could not be liable for the alleged negligence of a private physician who was not a hospital employee.

HPM&B’s partner Vincent L. Gallo represented the obstetrician/gynecologist and the hospital on the motion.