Opera Singer Sues Over Career-Ending Injury Allegedly Sustained During Childbirth

Sydney_opera_house_2010.jpgAn opera singer has filed suit against the U.S. government, alleging medical malpractice at a U.S. Army hospital. Herbst v. United States, No. 1:14-cv-00055, complaint (S.D. Oh., Jan. 16, 2014). She is claiming that a botched surgical procedure during childbirth has left her unable to work in her profession. Since the hospital is operated by the U.S. government, and the medical professionals working there were all government employees at the time, the lawsuit claims that the federal government is liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). 28 U.S.C. §§ 2671, et seq. The doctrine of sovereign immunity generally bars lawsuits against the government, but statutes like the FTCA establish situations in which the government may be sued for injuries.

The plaintiff is a classically-trained opera singer, who was previously with the Nashville Opera Company. Her husband is a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. She went to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH) at Fort Campbell, where she and her husband resided, on February 27, 2012. She was thirty-nine weeks pregnant at the time, and had experienced spontaneous rupture of membranes. This is commonly known as having one’s water break, meaning that labor has started.

She gave birth to a healthy baby boy. During delivery, a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) reportedly performed a midline episiotomy, a procedure that widens the vaginal opening by making an incision in the perineum. The plaintiff states that she did not consent to this procedure, nor was she told about the possible need for it. Risks associated with an episiotomy include further tearing during or after birth.

After leaving the hospital, the plaintiff began experiencing symptoms consistent with botched episiotomy repair, including fecal urgency, incontinence, and flatulence. A different CNM examined her at BACH on April 10, 2012, and concluded that a “4th degree episiotomy” was causing her symptoms. Doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center informed her that one or more reconstructive surgeries would be required to repair the damage to her perineum, but that any future pregnancies after the surgery would require C-section delivery. The plaintiff decided to postpone the surgery because a C-section would pose a risk to her singing career, but she is also unable to work as an opera singer in her current condition.

The lawsuit asserts a cause of action for medical malpractice on behalf of the plaintiff, and loss of consortium on behalf of her husband. Claims include allegations that the CNM who performed the episiotomy failed to obtain the plaintiff’s informed consent, that the episiotomy was not medically necessary, that the CNM performed the procedure improperly, that the CNM failed to consult with a physician on the procedure, and that the CNM failed to repair the episiotomy properly. The plaintiff’s damages include physical injuries, ongoing symptoms, future medical care and expenses, and loss of current and future income from her career.

The personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen represent people in Maryland who have been injured because of medical malpractice and other form of negligent or tortious conduct, helping them understand their rights and assert claims for damages. For a free and confidential consultation, please contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Birthing Malpractice: Brachial Plexus Injuries During Delivery Can Cause Permanent Damage, Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 26, 2011
Can Maryland Birthing Malpractice Cause Autism? Maryland Accident Law Blog, July 16, 2011
Maryland Birthing Malpractice Leaves Devastating Consequences for Parents and Child, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 30, 2011
Photo credit: By Jacques Grießmayer (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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