St. Lucie couple seeks lifelong care for brain-damaged infant, as medical malpractice trial beginsJanuary 5th, 2012 by TCPalm.com
By Elliott Jones
VERO BEACH — A St. Lucie County couple wants anywhere from $6.5 million to $10 million for lifelong care of a child they contend was brain damaged at birth because of the negligence of the Indian River Medical Center, according opening arguments Thursday in the trial.
That amount doesn’t include unspecified financial damages including the mother’s loss of her reproductive organs, her attorney told jurors in Indian River Circuit Court.
Melissa and Conrad Guettler are suing the hospital and its staff and two doctors on behalf of themselves and their 3-year-old son, Patrick Guettler. He wasn’t breathing at birth in mid 2008, resulting in his having cerebral palsy.
His intellect is fine, said the couple’s attorney, Nancy La Vista, of West Palm Beach. “He’s adorable.”
But, said La Vista, he falls a lot, can’t talk well and slobbers so much he sleeps between his parents so they can prevent him from choking.
All that — and the loss of Melissa Guettler’s reproductive organs — are all due to a chain of events that started with the mother being attended to by an inexperienced nurse, the attorney said.
Hospital attorney John Fitzpatrick of Denver disagreed.
He told jurors that testimony during the trial, which could last for weeks involving dozens of witnesses, will show that the medical problems were unforeseeable. The defense attorney said the child’s problems only occurred when the mother’s uterus unexpectedly ruptured.
And the chances of that, in Melissa Guettler’s case, was extremely remote, he said.
“It was impossible for Dr. (George) Fyfee (who handled her case) to predict” a rupture, Fitzpatrick said,
The mother had three previous children without problems.
Her pregnancy was untroubled before she chose to go to the hospital, at 38 weeks into her pregnancy, for a natural birth by induced labor.
Melissa Guettler is a nurse who knew people at the hospital, the attorney said.
Yet La Vista said hospital staff didn’t act on warning signs that began surfacing after her admission. Hours later, doctors ordered an emergency cesarean section that revealed the rupture and that the child wasn’t breathing, the hospital attorney said.
Hospital staff revived the infant, getting his heart beating.
By then, said La Vista, the child was left physically damaged and the mother lost her ability to have another child.
Trial testimony resumes on Friday. Witnesses are being brought in from across the nation.