Summary Judgment • Medical Malpractice • Federal Tort Claims Act

Carter v. U.S., PICS Case No. 14-0200 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 7, 2014) Bartle, J. (25 pages).

The court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment regarding the portion of plaintiffs’ negligence claim that pertained to the forwarding of test result information, but denied the summary judgment motion relating to plaintiffs’ expert witness as to the standard of care.

Plaintiffs Winfield and Carter were the parents of a minor child, Zaya. While pregnant, Winfield received prenatal care from Parkview Health Center. Parkview was part of the public health service. Approximately three weeks before her expected due date, Winfield was tested for Group B Streptococcus at a routine prenatal appointment at Parkview. GBS, a type of bacteria, is a leading cause of serious neonatal illnesses and mortality. The administering of intravenous antibiotics at the time of labor was known to reduce the risk of transmitting GBS to the newborn child.

Parkview received Winfield’s abnormal GBS test results on July 30, 2010. A Parkview physician had made a notation on the test result to give Winfield antibiotics when she went into active labor. However, Winfield’s GBS test report was not attached to her chart, but placed in a folder in which Parkview maintained abnormal test results to be shared on follow-up visits. It was typical of Parkview to wait until a follow-up visit to discuss abnormal test results.

On August 5, 2010, Winfield was taken shortly before 7 a.m. by ambulance to Hahnemann University Hospital, unaffiliated with Parkview. The admitting physician made an entry in Winfield’s chart that he had requested Winfield’s records, but his entry did not disclose to what institution his request had been addressed. Parkview phone records indicated there had been a call from Hahnemann’s main number early that morning, but there was no indication that it related to Winfield. Another Hahnemann physician noted that Winfield’s GBS status was unknown.

At 10:50 a.m., Winfield was in active labor;her GBS status remained unknown to the delivery team. Winfield gave birth to her child at 12:19 p.m. on August 5. At 2:22 p.m. that day, Parkview faxed Winfield’s chart to Hahnemann. The abnormal GBS test results were not included because over Parkview employee oversight.

Four days after Winfield and Zaya were discharged from the hospital, Zaya was admitted to a hospital, suffering from GBS meningitis, obstructive hydrocephalus and GBS sepsis. Plaintiffs then filed this medical malpractice claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging Parkview was negligent in failing to promptly notify Winfield or Hahnemann of the GBS test results, which caused Zaya’s injuries.

The government moved for summary judgment, claiming it had not breached any standard of care because it was not timely notified of Winfield’s admission and labor at Hahnemann. The court agreed. The only direct evidence of notice was a record of two phone calls from Hahnemann to Parkview, but nothing indicated these calls related to Winfield. The court held any such inference would be speculative. The court granted the government’s motion for summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim insofar as it related to any failure by Parkview to notify Hahnemann of Winfield’s GBS status. The court also granted the motion for summary judgment to the extent plaintiffs sought to recover for Parkview’s maintenance of Winfield’s test results in a separate file, holding that this practice could not have caused injury in the absence of timely notice.