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Doctor and Nurse Defendants must answer deposition questions about fetal heart tracings

CASE: Lattaker v. Magee Women's Hospital of UPMC REFERENCE: 2016 Pa. Dist. & Cnty. Dec. LEXIS 1144 (C. P. Alleg. July 5, 2016), Judge Wettick CASE LOCATION: Allegheny Co., PA.

Lattaker was a case where the Defendants failed to perform a timely C-Section resulting in severe neurological and physical injuries to the baby.

In this case, the Defendant obstetrician’s interpretation of the fetal heart monitor tracing was critical because the ominous fetal heart monitor tracing was the reason that the C-section as ultimately performed and more importantly, the reason why an earlier C-section should have been done.

In his deposition, the Defendant obstetrician testified that in preparing for his deposition, he reviewed the Plaintiffs’ medical records - including the fetal heart monitor strips - and reconstructed a literal, minute-by-minute account of his actions and thoughts in the time leading up to the delivery; and testified that he could only do that by reviewing the minute-by minute account of the fetal heart rate recorded on the fetal monitor strip. Dr. Kaminski further testified that he decided to perform an expedited delivery based upon the fetal monitor strip; and he was prepared to explain his actions by referring to the fetal monitor strip (to show when he did what he did and why he thought what he thought).

Despite this, Defense Counsel refused to allow the Defendant to look at the fetal heart monitor tracing and/or answer any questions related to it. Defense Counsel cited to a prior Allegheny County case, McLane v. Valley Medical Facilities, Inc., where Judge Wettick held that a defendant pathologist did not have to reinterpret pathology slides at the pathologist’s deposition.

We then filed a Motion asking the Court to reconvene the Defendant’s deposition and order that the Defendant be required to look at the fetal heart monitor tracing and answer all questions related to the same.

In a landmark decision, Judge Wettick issued an Order and Opinion reconvening the Defendant’s deposition, and required the Defendant to look at the fetal heart monitor tracing and answer questioned related to the same. In his Opinion, Judge Wettick distinguished this type of situation from his prior McLane case and chastised Defense Counsel’s use of the McClane case. Judge Wettick went to hold that, at a deposition, a plaintiff may show a defendant a fetal heart tracing, x-ray, or other image studies if the same will assist the deponent in remembering what occurred.