On August 22, 2009, Shannon Trabue’s water broke and she was rushed to the Atlanta Women’s Specialists LLC, a Georgia hospital, to deliver her baby. After the successful cesarean section birth of a little girl, Trabue’s doctors found a spike in her blood pressure. Three days later, still under the care of obstetricians Stanley R. Angus and Rebecca V. Simonsen, Trabue complained of shortness of breath. An X-ray was ordered and while it was being administered she suffered a heart attack leading to permanent brain damage. A Fulton County jury found that the heart attack could have been avoided if not for the negligence of Angus and Simonsen. After deliberating for 15 hours the jury awarded the Trabue family nearly $46 million in damages.
Trabue’s lawyers alleged that Simonsen and Angus failed to monitor and properly treat their client’s blood pressure spike and also inadvertently caused the pulmonary edema that stopped her heart by inserting too many fluids into her system. Evidence showed that the fluids overflowed into her lungs and caused her heart attack. Despite being revived, Trabue couldn’t breathe, and records show that her brain went without oxygen for 10 to 12 minutes, causing permanent brain damage. Trabue can reportedly no longer care for herself, she suffers from uncontrollable shaking, and now has the brain capacity of a 5-year old.
“When I read this case, I was just really horrified because this patient had one of the most common complications we see in pregnancy,” said Dr. Katharine Wenstrom, who is an OB/GYN professor at Brown University and testified on behalf of the plaintiff. “What ultimately led to her downfall was a complication that could have easily been treated, and I just thought this was such bad management I had to speak out.”
Keith Trabue, Shannon’s husband, and CertusBank NA, Shannon’s conservator, filed suit against the Atlanta Women’s Specialists LLC in August 2014 and they were rewarded by receiving one of the largest medical malpractice payouts in Georgia’s history. The jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff came with $18 million in compensatory damages for injuries to Shannon and another $18 million in compensatory damages for the loss of marital relationship for Keith. In addition, $6.7 million was awarded to the family for future medical expenses, $565,624 for past medical expenses, and nearly $1 million for past and future lost earnings.
“There are two standards of care. There’s the standard of care that puts patient’s safety first. And there’s the standard of care that allows the doctor to say ‘I’m sorry,’” said the attorney representing the Trabue family. “Now the question really boils down to which do you think ought to be the standard of care in our community? Should it be the standard that is safety first, or should it be the ‘I’m sorry,’ standard?”