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Medical malpractice

June 23, 2010
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Trial Report

Jason Cole Sr., as Personal Representative of the Estates of Patricia Harris Cole and Baby Jason Cole Jr. v. Joseph M. Smith, M.D.

Wayne Circuit Court No. 89C01–0103-CT001

Injuries: Wrongful death of 34-week-old fetus

Date:
March 26, 2010

Judge or Jury Trial:
Jury trial

Judge: Hon. David Kolger

Disposition: $1.1 million

Plaintiff Attorneys:
Jason R. Reese and Stephen M. Wagner, Wagner Reese & Crossen

Defendant Attorneys:
Kirk Bagrowski and Louis Voelker, Eichhorn & Eichhorn

Insurance: Pro Assurance

Case Information: A Wayne County jury returned a verdict of $1.1 million in favor of the plaintiff and against a Richmond OB/GYN in this medical malpractice action. It was a 5-day jury trial before Judge David Kolger. The plaintiff, Jason Cole Sr., claimed that the defendant failed to comply with the applicable standard of medical care and that his negligence was a factor in causing the death of baby Jason Cole Jr. (then 34-weeks gestation).

The issues facing the jury were: (1) whether the defendant was negligent in ordering a “stress test” a/k/a OCT test in lieu of a non-stress test a/k/a a biophysical profile; (2) whether any act or omission by the defendant caused the death of the infant; and (3) whether baby Jason was born alive or stillborn.

The defendant argued that the OCT test met the standard of care, the alleged acts of the defendant did not cause the death of the infant, and the infant was stillborn, thus limiting any damages to emotional distress of the mother only.

The defense made no settlement offers.

Just before trial plaintiff offered to settle all claims for $100,000.

The case involved the death of a 34-week-old baby when the mom presented to Reid Hospital on Jan. 27, 2001, complaining of lower abdominal pain, lower back pain, and decreased fetal movement.

The experts agreed that pathology showed mom had a severe placental abruption which began before her presentation to the hospital. All of the experts and the three treating doctors agreed that the baby was alive, but in danger, when mom presented to the hospital.

The defendant did not review the entire chart which indicated “possible fetal compromise,” but instead testified that he obtained his information directly from the nurse, the mom, and other treating doctor. Despite the non-reassuring fetal heart rate tracings, he ordered the stress test instead of a non-stress test.

The defense expert, Dr. David Kiley, testified that there was no deviation in the standard of care by the defendant and that, even if there were, there was nothing that could have been done to change the outcome – the baby would have died anyway as a result of the severe placenta abruption that had existed long before mom presented to the hospital.

The jury deliberated for 2 hours, 15 minutes before rendering a verdict.

Even more tragic was the fact the baby’s mother was never able to see justice through the legal system. On July 14, 2006, approximately 5 1/2 years after her baby died, Patricia Harris Cole died in an unrelated car accident in Richmond. This made presentation of damages very difficult. “Trish” is survived by her husband, Jason Cole Sr., and her three other children.•

– Jason R. Reese
 

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  1. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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