Jury Hears Openings In $45M+ Childbirth Malpractice Trial - Watch Gavel-to-Gavel via CVN

Posted by David Siegel on Apr 14, 2024 10:29:52 PM

Burunsuzyan openings

CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Maro Burunsuzyan delivering her opening statement

Los Angeles, CA - A California state court jury heard opening statements Friday in a medical malpractice lawsuit alleging delays in performing a C-section delivery left a child with extensive permanent brain damage, and the full trial is being webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.

Plaintiff Karina Bautista sued Emanate Health Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in 2018 on behalf of her son Matthew, claiming her delivery in 2012 involved numerous unnecessary delays that violated the hospital’s own policies for emergency births, however Foothill Presbyterian maintains Matthew suffered a brain injury before Karina’s arrival in the emergency room, and that their treatment was consistent with the standard of care.

Attorney Maro Burunsuzyan described to jurors during her opening statement how Karina and her husband arrived at Foothill Presbyterian's emergency department late in the evening after she began experiencing contractions, but that they were supposedly held in the emergency room’s waiting area for roughly an hour before being transferred to the labor and delivery department.


After arriving in the department hospital staff noticed Matthew had an elevated heartbeat, a potential sign of fetal distress, and Karina’s OBGYN allegedly ordered an “emergency” C-section at 3am - a claim an attorney for the hospital later disputed during his opening statement. Foothill Presbyterian is a smaller community hospital and did not have the full surgical team required to perform the operation on-site at the time.

Burunsuzyan told jurors that despite the OBGYN’s orders and a hospital policy requiring the surgical team to be available for emergency C-sections within 30 minutes, Karina didn’t undergo the procedure until 3:55. By then Matthew’s heartbeat had supposedly slowed to dangerous levels, depriving his brain of oxygen and resulting in major brain damage known as a hypoxic ischemic brain injury.

“You’re going to hear that this horrible delay by the hospital not being able to get their operating team together, by not getting the crew there, by not contacting them based upon their policies and procedures in a timely manner, is the cause as to why this baby in trouble continued to suffocate, continued to have loss of oxygen and blood to his brain to a point where he could no longer survive,” Burunsuzyan argued. 

Burunsuzyan detailed that the actual delivery only took three minutes, and she maintained that even if the delivery took place as late as 3:45am Matthew could have made a significant recovery. She also accused the hospital of failing to implement a post-delivery cooling procedure that could have further minimized Matthew's brain damage. 

Burunsuzyan explained that Matthew is nearly completely disabled and will require extensive, round-the-clock medical care for the rest of his life. She presented an estimated life care plan totaling roughly $45 million in addition to between $2 and $3.5 million in lost future earning capacity.

Representing the hospital, defense attorney Stephen Rosa told jurors that the OBGYN who ordered the C-section - and is not a named defendant in the case - would testify the entire delivery was consistent with the standard of care, and that neurological tests performed immediately after Matthew’s birth were not consistent with a recent, acute hypoxic ischemic brain injury.

“We acknowledge this child suffered a hypoxic ischemic brain injury,” Rosa said. “But we believe it occurred in utero before the mother ever came to the hospital.”

Rosa openings

CVN screenshot of defense attorney Stephen Rosa delivering his opening statement 

Rosa argued there was nothing in the medical records to suggest Karina and her husband were improperly delayed in the emergency department, and that while a baby’s elevated heartbeat is cause for concern neither Matthew nor Karina showed symptoms of major distress.

“Everything indicates it was not an emergency,” he said. “Urgent, yes, but not an emergency.”

Rosa claimed Karina’s OBGYN ordered an “urgent” C-section, which involves less preparations than an “emergency” or even more drastic “crash” C-section. He attributed the notation in Karina’s records of the OBGYN ordering an “emergency” C-section to a non-OBGYN nurse interpreting any late-night C-section requiring the on-call team to be summoned as an emergency.

He explained the hospital maintains a designated operating room specifically for emergency and crash c-sections, and the fact Karina was moved from the floor housing that facility to a standard operating room on a different floor shows her team clearly was operating under the assumption of a lower priority “urgent” C-section.

Rosa acknowledged that Matthew required “some resuscitation” after birth but maintained that’s relatively common with C-section deliveries, and he stressed that Matthew scored acceptably on numerous neurological tests administered immediately after delivery, which would not be possible if he'd suffered an extensive brain injury just moments before and didn't indicate the need for cooling treatment. 

Attorneys for both sides also spent significant time detailing the credentials of the multiple expert witnesses expected to testify in the trial. CVN’s coverage, including all witness testimony, will continue for the duration of the proceedings.

The trial is taking place before Judge J. Stephen Czuleger, and the case is captioned Matthew G. Lopez Bautista v. Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, case number BC693486 in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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Topics: Medical Malpractice, California