When she was 28 weeks pregnant, Karen Lopez, 33, was admitted to a hospital in preterm labor. She underwent an ultrasound, which maternal fetal medicine specialist Mahmoud Ismail interpreted as showing a rear fundal location of the placenta. Six weeks later, Lopez was admitted to another hospital in labor. Obstetrician Mukundini Mehta performed a cesarean section, during which she noted a 4-inch lesion on Lopez’s uterus. After the delivery, only a portion of the placenta separated. Mehta pulled on the remaining portion, which led to a massive hemorrhage.
Lopez was subsequently taken to intensive care, where she suffered acute renal failure and gangrene calling for bilateral amputations. Before the surgery, Lopez died. She is survived by her two minor children, including her newborn son, and her husband. She had been a teacher earning about $46,300 annually.
Lopez’s estate sued Ismail and the first hospital, the second hospital, and Mehta, alleging failure to diagnose and properly handle placenta percreta, a condition in which the placenta becomes inseparable from the uterine wall. Among other things, suit claimed that Ismail negligently misinterpreted the position of the placenta on the ultrasound and failed to obtain pictures of the placenta’s location in relation to the cervix. Additionally, suit charged that Mehta used excessive force in pulling on the placenta post-delivery and failed to call for additional surgeons and prepare for a hysterectomy when she noticed the lesion, which she should have recognized as placenta percreta.
The jury awarded $15.55 million.
Citation: Lopez v. U. of Chi. Hosp., No. 09-L-012356 (Ill., Cook Co. Cir. Nov. 22, 2013).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Keith A. Hebeisen and Sarah F. King, both of Chicago.