Parents' Damages for Stillbirth Set at $800K

By Steve Lash

A Baltimore jury has awarded $400,000 each to two bereaved parents after finding a Glen Burnie gynecologist liable for the stillbirth of their child.

Jayme Krenzer and Houston Frey, through counsel, successfully argued that Dr. Pascale Duroseau committed medical malpractice by failing to monitor Krenzer’s pregnancy appropriately, to order tests and hospitalization when needed, and ultimately to prevent the death in utero of Baby Boy Krenzer.

Krenzer and Frey were both 19 years old during the pregnancy.

“They had really prepared for this birth and were really looking forward to it,” said their attorney, Julia R. Arfaa. “This wasn’t two 19-year-olds who got accidentally pregnant. They really wanted this child.”

Krenzer had smoked cigarettes during the pregnancy, which made it difficult to seat a six-member jury and “made the case incredibly difficult to try,” Arfaa said.

Prospective jurors were asked if they had “strong feelings for or against women who smoke during pregnancy,” Arfaa said. Many “couldn’t put their own feelings aside,” she added.

“You never know what jurors are going to think about a woman who smokes during her pregnancy,” said Arfaa, of Salsbury, Clements, Bekman, Marder & Adkins LLC in Baltimore.

Duroseau’s attorney, Mary Elizabeth Kaslick, did not return telephone messages seeking comment. Kaslick is with Kaslick, Prete & Kelly LLC in Frederick.

The judge permitted Krenzer’s smoking to be mentioned at trial only to challenge her credibility or as a possible explanation why the child’s development was delayed — not as a cause of fetal death, Arfaa said.

As a result, the jury was able to focus on whether Duroseau caused the death by breaching the standard of care required of an obstetrician/gynecologist when presented with a pregnancy in distress, Arfaa said.

Krenzer first saw Duroseau for prenatal care at the six-week mark of her pregnancy in July 2007.

An ultrasound exam in early October showed no fetal abnormalities.

But that November, Krenzer arrived at Duroseau’s office complaining of spotting. A prenatal exam showed the fetus measured at 21 weeks of development, though Krenzer was 24 weeks pregnant, according to the complaint.

Duroseau sent Krenzer to the gynecology department at Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore that day to assess the spotting. But the doctor took no action with regard to the fetus’ small size, nor did she request a medical consultation or tests to assess the possibility of intrauterine growth restriction, which can cause fetal death, according to the complaint.

At trial, Arfaa presented testimony that a battery of tests should have been performed at that time, including a Doppler ultrasound, to measure more precisely the fetus’ size, development and blood flow.

Instead, Krenzer was discharged when no blood was found in the birth canal, according to the complaint.

On three visits to Duroseau over the next month, Krenzer was given tests that indicated the fetus was at least three weeks behind in size relative to the length of the pregnancy. Duroseau, however, ordered no additional tests, consulted with no other doctor and did not admit Krenzer to the hospital, omissions that the plaintiffs’ medical experts testified breached the standard of care, Arfaa said.

On Jan. 3, 2008, Krenzer came to Duroseau’s office for a scheduled visit at the 31-week mark of her pregnancy. A Doppler exam found no fetal heart tones. A subsequent test confirmed the child had died.

Krenzer had a Caesarean section to deliver the stillborn fetus.

She and Frey filed suit on Oct. 6, 2010, in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Each of them alleged wrongful death as well as a joint informed-consent claim, in which they alleged that Duroseau failed to inform them of the risk of stillbirth associated with intrauterine growth restriction.

The defense also presented medical testimony at trial in an effort to refute the allegations.

The jury found for the plaintiffs and awarded damages on Feb. 3.

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