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Jury sides with defense in infection death of infant

A Clay County jury deliberated for nine hours before siding with a North Kansas City medical clinic, doctor and nurse in an infant wrongful-death lawsuit.

Natalie and John Piatt filed the suit after the Jan. 22, 2015 death of their son, Malachi, born 11 days earlier by emergency cesarian section with a severe brain injury to a mother who had been diagnosed with a Group B strep infection at 36 weeks.

The cause of death was severe chorioamnionitis, an inflammation of the fetal membranes due to bacterial infection, and funisitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue of the umbilical cord.

The suit alleged negligence on the part of Dr. Ian Rosbrugh, labor and delivery nurse Sarah Tibbetts and Meritas Health Corp., doing business as Meritas Health Pavilion for Women.

A second nurse named in the additional complaint was dismissed on the Friday before the start of what would turn out to be an eight-day trial with a dozen total expert witnesses, six per side.

Defense attorney Courtney McCray singled out the testimony of placental pathologist Dr. Janie Lage for making a difference to the jury — though no jurors remained after the 9 p.m. verdict to discuss the case.

“This was a severe infection, and no action on the part of any of the defendants could have changed the outcome,” she said.

The plaintiffs argued that Rosbrugh, who after the initial exam had left the hospital while Piatt was in early labor, should have returned sooner and ordered the C-section more quickly. He instead relied on phone updates from Tibbetts.

They also took fault with the antibiotic regimen prescribed to Natalie Piatt — penicillin at first, followed by Ancef once the intra-amniotic infection was apparent.

The plaintiffs’ Chicago-based attorneys did not respond to several interview requests, with local counsel James Bartimus directing questions to the lead trial lawyers. Per McCray, the plaintiffs’ experts testified that had the infant been delivered one hour earlier, he would have survived.

The plaintiffs claimed medical bills, funeral expenses and future damages from the loss of the familial unit, as well as companionship and support, seeking more than $5.2 million in damages.

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Venue: Clay County Circuit Court
Case Number/Date: 16CY-CV09135/Aug. 28, 2019
Judge: Anthony Rex Gabbert
Plaintiffs’ Experts: Dr. Richard Sweet, Meadow Vista, California (obstetrics and gynecology); Heidi Shinn, Columbus, Ohio (nursing); Dr. Michael D. Katz, New York (pediatric neurology); Dr. Patrick Barnes, Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, California (pediatric neuroradiology); Dr. Michael Horgan, Albany, New York (neonatology); Kurt Krueger, John Warren Economics, Prairie Village, Kansas (economics)
Defendant’s Experts: Dr. Janice Lage, Ottawa, Canada (placental pathology); Dr. Paul Levisohn, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Aurora, Colorado (pediatric neurology); Dr. Lawrence Shields, Santa Maria, California (maternal fetal medicine); Dr. Richard Beigi, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (obstetrics and gynecology); Michele Wright, Columbia, Missouri (labor and delivery nursing); Anne Taylor, San Diego (labor and delivery nursing)
Last Pretrial Demand: $5.2 million
Last Pretrial Offer: $0
Insurer: ProAssurance
Caption: Natalie and John Piatt, and Natalie Piatt as plaintiff ad litem on behalf of decedent Malachi Piatt v. Ian M. Rosbrugh M.D.; Meritas Health Corporation d/b/a Meritas Health Pavilion for Women; and Sarah Tibbets R.N.
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Lisa Weinstein, Edward Aucoin and Kimberly Brancato, Grant & Eisenhofer, Chicago; Anne Tarvin, Bartimus Frickleton Robertson Rader, Leawood, Kansas
Defendants’ Attorneys: Bruce Keplinger and Courtney McCray, Norris Keplinger Hicks & Welder, Overland Park, Kansas (for Rosbrugh and Meritas Health); Tim Frets and John Witten, Rouse Frets White Goss Gentile Rhodes, Leawood, Kansas (for Tibbetts)