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$78.5 Million Verdict Follows Ultrasound Error

May 11, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Obstetric Ultrasound
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Old, poorly maintained ultrasound equipment led an obstetrician to declare that a fetus died and then “came back to life” 81 minutes later, according to plaintiff’s attorneys in a medical negligence trial that resulted in a $78.5 million verdict.

The trial, at a state Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia, involved the case of Parrys Nicholson-Upsey, a now-3-year-old girl. According to lawyers for her parents, Victoria Upsey and Steven Nicholson, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, she suffered spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy as a result of negligence before and after her birth.

Court records and a statement from the parents’ attorneys indicate that Upsey was about 36 weeks pregnant when she went to Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in August 2008, according to The Pennsylvania Record, a legal journal. She complained of abdominal pain.

Obstetrician Charles V. Touey, MD, lead defendant in the case, performed an ultrasound and found no detectable heartbeat, according to the lawsuit. He ordered further testing, the lawsuit said.

It took more than an hour for a second ultrasound, according to court records. A statement by the parents’ attorneys said no ultrasound technician was at the hospital because it was Sunday. A technician had to be called from home.

After the second ultrasound, the baby was delivered by emergency Cesarean section. According to the lawsuit, the newborn was “hypotonic and lethargic” and was transported to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia for treatment. The lawsuit alleged that further problems during the transport contributed to the child’s disabilities.

According to the parents’ attorneys, Dr. Touey maintained both before and during the trial that he had performed the ultrasound properly and that the baby died and then came back to life. Daniel S. Weinstock said in the attorneys’ statement:

He actually told my client her baby had died, then, 81 minutes later, the baby had come back to life.

According to the attorneys’ statement, Weinstock got the hospital’s risk manager to admit in court that there was no evidence the ultrasound equipment had been serviced in more than 10 years, although the manual recommends annual maintenance.

The $78.5 million jury award, announced last week, included payments for future medical care, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and emotional distress, according to the parents’ attorneys.

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Related seminar: Maternal Fetal Imaging™


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