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Court orders midwife to pay $5M for breech delivery death

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There was no rejoicing after a court ordered a former midwife to pay $5 million in damages for causing the death of an infant, as the grieving parents did not even have an opportunity to confront the defendant nurse.

The damages award was part of a default judgment, where the defendant fails to respond to a lawsuit and appear in court. Because the U.S. justice system was founded on principles of fairness, courts are extremely reluctant to order default judgments in a high stakes case. But when, as here, the defendant appears to purposefully avoid answering to the allegations against him or her, the court is left with no real choice.

The plaintifffs lost their infant son three years ago in a botched breech delivery at an under-equipped Michigan birthing center. Breech deliveries are extremely difficult – most hospitals use c-section delivery when a baby is breech – and it is clear that the defendant was not qualified to attempt the high-risk birth.

This story gets even sadder, as the midwife was not carrying malpractice insurance. It is unlikely that the prevailing plaintifffs will recover any significant amount of money for the baby’s wrongful death.

Source: USA Today, “Couple Awarded $5 Million After Botched Midwife Delivery,” Louise Knott Ahern, May 27, 2014

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