ILNews

Mother of stillborn fetus satisfies actual victim requirement in Med-Mal Act

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals held today that a mother who suffers a stillbirth due to medical malpractice qualifies as an injured patient and satisfies the actual victim requirement under the Medical Malpractice Act, regardless of whether the malpractice resulted in injuries to the mother, fetus, or both.

In Steven Spangler and Heidi Brown v. Barbara Bechtel, et al., No. 49A05-0908-CV-482, unmarried parents Steven Spangler and Heidi Brown appealed summary judgment in favor of St. Vincent Randolph Hospital, nurse-midwife Barbara Bechtel, and Expectations Women’s Health and Childbearing Center for wrongful death and emotional distress. Their baby was stillborn and could not be resuscitated.

The appellate court found the parents have a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress based upon Brown’s direct involvement in the stillbirth. Indiana courts have held on numerous occasions that when a malpractice claim is brought based upon malpractice affecting a pregnancy, the mother satisfies Shuamber’s modified impact rule, 579 N.E.2d 452, 454 (Ind. 1991). The hospital failed to cite a case in which an Indiana court precluded parents of a fetus suffering death as a result of medical malpractice from asserting a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, noted Judge Elaine Brown.

The judges also ruled the parents can assert their claim under the Medical Malpractice Act. In previous cases allowing for recovery of emotional damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress stemming from miscarriages or stillbirths, the mothers were physically injured as a result of malpractice.

Previous caselaw hadn’t addressed whether Brown would qualify as an “actual victim” of negligence able to assert the parents’ claim for emotional distress because she wasn’t physically injured by the malpractice. The appellate court was persuaded by the parents’ argument that if an unborn child isn’t a separate person under law, then the unborn child must be a part of the mother, physically and legally. Other jurisdictions with similarly constructed laws have reached this conclusion, wrote Judge Brown.

“We do not believe that the legislature intended such sweeping legal implications as to preclude medical malpractice liability on the one hand and allow it on the other based upon whether a full-term, viable fetus actually survives the pregnancy, even if for a day or two only,” she wrote.

The appellate court reversed summary judgment in favor of the hospital and midwife and remanded for further proceedings.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

ADVERTISEMENT