A wrongful death action in Connecticut sometimes involves complex legal, scientific and constitutional issues beyond the events surrounding a fatal workplace accident or car accident. A recent medical malpractice lawsuit posed significant and novel questions, normally related to debates on abortion, on whether a fetus may be considered a person for legal purposes. Settlement of this case, however, may leave many controversial questions unresolved.
A Stanford obstetrician-gynecologist was sued for wrongful death and malpractice for allegedly causing the death of a 22-week-old fetus in 2011. The fetus died less than two hours after being born.
The parents alleged that the physician ruptured the mother’s fetal membrane while she was trying to remove an intrauterine birth device. They claimed that the doctor did not confirm the patient was not pregnant before this procedure.
The lawsuit was controversial because it posed the issue of whether a wrongful death lawsuit was viable if the fetus was not significantly developed for survival outside the womb. A judge ruled that the lawsuit could proceed to trial because Connecticut court decisions did not specifically address this issue and cases from other states were split.
Resolution of this issue for other legal cases will not be addressed by Connecticut’s appellate courts. The trial judge dismissed the lawsuit on December 31 after the parties reached a settlement. The agreement’s terms were undisclosed.
Legal representation can help families confront the myriad of complex issues that can accompany a wrongful death lawsuit. A qualified and experienced law firm can help families who lose a loved one protect their right to compensation in trials and settlement negotiations.
Source: Hartford Courant, “Connecticut fetal death lawsuit settled,” Jan. 4, 2016