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ARTICLE ID 31324

$________ - BENCH TRIAL - GOVERNMENT LIABILITY - FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT - OBSTETRICAL MALPRACTICE ALLEGED AGAINST CALIFORNIA NAVAL HOSPITAL - FAILURE TO PROPERLY MONITOR FETAL WELL BEING AFTER MOTHER REACHES TERM - STILL BIRTH - MOTHER DEVELOPS INFECTION - EXCESSIVE LOSS OF BLOOD REQUIRES TRANSFUSION - MOTHER RECEIVES AIDS TAINTED TRANSFUSION - DEATH OF MOTHER AND LATER-BORN SON AS A RESULT OF AIDS - PLAINTIFF FATHER INFECTED WITH AIDS VIRUS - ONE TO FOUR YEAR LIFE EXPECTANCY FOR PLAINTIFF FATHER - TRIAL BIFURCATED ON ISSUES OF LIABILITY AND DAMAGES.

U.S. Dist., Boston, Mass.

This was an obstetrical malpractice action brought by the plaintiff Martin Gaffney under the Federal Tort Claims Act against the defendant U.S. Navy for the deaths of his wife and son, and for his own injuries suffered as a result of the alleged negligent care and treatment afforded his wife in the Long Beach, California naval hospital during her first pregnancy. The case was bifurcated on the issues of liability and damages with the liability aspect tried in the initial phase.

The events out of which the subject lawsuit arose commenced in August of ________, when the decedent Mutsuko Gaffney, the wife of the plaintiff Martin Gaffney, presented to the defendant naval hospital on her due date. The decedent was pregnant with her first child. She was examined by a doctor and nurse on the estimated due date and then sent home. Two weeks later, the decedent again presented to the hospital, was examined, and sent home. Two days later, the decedent returned to the hospital. She was exhibiting signs of fever and an elevated white count and no fetal activity was noted. No fetal heart beat could be detected and the child, which was dead, was delivered by Caesarean section. During the surgery, the decedent Mutsuko lost an excessive amount of blood requiring that she be transfused with two pints of blood. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff and the medical personnel, one of the pints of blood was tainted with the AIDS virus. Subsequently, the decedent Mutsuko gave birth to two more children, one of which, a boy, was infected with and succumbed to the AIDS virus. The plaintiff Martin Gaffney was also infected with the virus through his wife. The plaintiff Maureen Gaffney, age seven at trial, has not tested positive for the HIV virus.

The plaintiff’s expert perinatologist testified that the medical defendants deviated from the standard of care in ________ by failing to properly monitor the well being of the fetus after the decedent reached her due date. Specifically, the plaintiff’s expert testified that the decedent mother should have, at the very least, been placed on an electronic fetal monitor on a weekly basis. The plaintiff’s expert opined that had proper monitoring been conducted, the problems with the fetus which resulted in the eventual stillbirth would have been detected, prompting timely intervention by induction or Caesarean section.

The plaintiff’s expert concluded that had the defendants timely intervened, the decedent Mutsuko would not have required a blood transfusion and would never have contracted the AIDS virus. The plaintiff’s expert testified that if the Caesarean section were performed earlier, as it should have been, and she had required a blood transfusion, then the blood she would have received would not have been tainted with AIDS. The evidence indicated that the tainted blood was drawn the day prior to the plaintiff’s surgery and receipt of the blood. The defense experts contended that the standard of care in ________ did not require regular fetal monitoring in a situation such as the decedent’s, who was not a high risk patient and had a normal pre-natal course.

The plaintiff traced the decedent Mutsuko’s development of AIDS to the subject transfusion through the blood donor records, revealing that one of the pints of blood received by the decedent had been donated by a marine who was subsequently discharged from the service for homosexuality. The donor of the other pint of blood agreed to submit to an AIDS test, which proved negative but the discharged marine refused to submit to HIV testing, although admitting to having engaged in multiple homosexual acts.

Following the liability phase of the trial, the Judge found for all plaintiffs against the defendant and the case proceeded to the damages phase. It was determined by the Court that because the sum and substance of the medical treatment out of which the lawsuit arose occurred in California, California law should apply, resulting in a cap of $________ per plaintiff on non- economic damages. The parties stipulated to an award of $________ non-economic damages for the estate of the decedent Mutsuko Gaffney, the estate of the decedent John Gaffney and the plaintiff Martin Gaffney.

The plaintiff’s expert economist calculated economic loss to the plaintiffs as follows: $________ for the estate of the decedent John Gaffney, assuming that he would have completed college; $________ for the estate of the decedent Mutsuko Gaffney; $________ loss of care suffered by the plaintiff Maureen Gaffney; and $________ for the plaintiff Martin Gaffney. The plaintiffs’ expert’s calculation of economic loss for Martin Gaffney included loss of military income benefits, loss of private sector income benefits, loss of military retirement benefits, loss of private sector pension and loss of household services. The Trial Court rendered an award of $________ including: $________ to the estate of John Gaffney, assuming a high school education; $________ to the estate of Mutsuko Gaffney; $________ to the plaintiff Martin Gaffney, into which award was subsumed an award for loss of care to the plaintiff Maureen; in addition, a provision stipulated to by the parties for the establishment of a trust valued at $________ covering future medical costs for the remainder of the plaintiff Martin’s life. Plaintiff’s expert perinatologist: Jeffrey Greenspoon from Long Beach, Ca. Plaintiff’s expert AIDS specialist: Dr. Barry from Mass. General Hospital in Boston, Ma.

Defendant’s ob/gyn experts: Barry Schifrin and Dr. Freeman from Los Angeles. Gaffney vs. United States of America. Civil Action no. 88 ________; Judge Rya Zobel, 4-24-91. Attorneys for plaintiff: Robert D. Canty and Jacqueline McKenney, both of Boston.

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