The birth of a child is something many soon-to-be parents look forward to with both excitement and nervousness. Concern for the health and safety of both mother and child are common, and often, unnecessary. Sadly, this is not always true. In the case of one Terrebonne Parish family, the arrival of a baby girl was accompanied by an unfortunate medical mistake. The family’s medical malpractice claim raised important distinctions in assessing and apportioning damages as it moved into the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal.
Following a high-risk pregnancy, Kimberly Thibodeaux gave birth to her daughter, Gabrielle, on November 20th, 2003. Dr. James Donnell performed the cesarean section that delivered Mrs. Thibodeaux’s fourth child. Complications arose from the c-section, including a severe laceration to Mrs. Thibodeaux’s bladder. Ultimately, Dr. Donnell performed an emergency hysterectomy and placed sutures into Mrs. Thibodeaux’s bladder without consulting a urologist before attempting to repair Mrs. Thibodeaux’s bladder himself. Mrs. Thibodeaux experienced extreme abdominal pain and discomfort following the delivery, eventually necessitating further treatment under the care of urologist Dr. Robert Alexander. Mrs. Thibodeaux’s abdomen was reopened, the sutures removed, stents and a catheter were placed into her bladder in an attempt to regain any functional use. Mrs. Thibodeaux continued her treatment with Dr. Alexander, who determined the damage to Mrs. Thibodeaux’s bladder was permanent in April 2007. Mrs. Thibodeaux continued to suffer from a range of painful symptoms, including frequent urination, leakage, pain during sex and urination, and abdominal spasms.
Mrs. Thibodeaux, along with her husband Todd and on behalf of their daughter, filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Donnell. In May 2014, the jury trial returned a verdict in the Thibodeauxs’ favor, finding that Dr. Donnell had breached the applicable standard of care in treating Mrs. Thibodeaux, and that his breach caused her injuries. The jury awarded $60,000 for Mrs. Thibodeaux’s medical expenses but did not award any general damages. Both the Thibodeauxs and Dr. Donnell filed motions challenging the damages award. The trial court denied both motions, and the Thibodeauxs filed an appeal in the First Circuit. After determining both motions were filed in an appropriate manner within the stated deadline, the court concluded the Thibodeauxs had cleared a path for their appeal concerning damages. See La. R.S. 13.850(A).