Court

Appeals Court Upholds Verdict of No Negligence in Chehalis Midwife Malpractice Suit

By Natalie Johnson / njohnson@chronline.com

The Washington state Court of Appeals recently upheld a Lewis County jury’s 2015 verdict in a medical malpractice case in which they ruled an area midwife was not negligent in a 2010 birth that left a child permanently disabled. 

The original lawsuit was filed in 2014 on behalf of a boy born in 2010, identified as L.M. in court documents, and represented in court by a guardian ad-litem, against Lewis County midwife Laura Hamilton. 

The suit argued that Hamilton acted negligently during the birth, causing an injury to the child’s brachial plexus, resulting in permanent nerve damage, pain and limited use of his right arm. 

The suit was originally filed in King County but later moved to Lewis County. 

The case went to trial in October 2015 and after two weeks of testimony, a jury ruled that Hamilton did not cause the boy’s injuries through negligence.

In an opinion released on Tuesday, the Appeals Court laid out four arguments made by the plaintiffs in their appeal — that Hamilton should not have been allowed to present an argument that the injury occurred due to natural forces of labor, that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing a biomechanical engineer’s testimony on the subject, that the court abused its discretion by excluding testimony of a medical expert who treated the child but wasn’t qualified to testify about the cause of his injury and by granting a motion to change the venue of the trial from King to Lewis County.

L.M.’s appeal also asked for a new trial in King County.

“L.M. contends he could not receive a fair trial in Lewis County because of the small size of the community. He argues that it would be impossible to empanel 12 jurors who did not know Hamilton,” the appeals court’s judgement reads. “This contention is speculative and lacks evidence on the record.”

The appeals court ruled against each of the plaintiff’s arguments.

Hamilton is currently facing two other malpractice suits filed this spring.

One, filed by Kylie Frost and Zachariah Sprague against Hamilton in Cowlitz County Superior Court, claims that Hamilton caused their baby’s death through negligence during the birth. The case was granted a change of venue to Lewis County last month. 

A second case, filed by Scott and Seng Hamilton in Lewis County Superior Court, regards the April 2016 birth of their son, Zachary, during which the infant received a brachial plexus injury and permanent nerve damage and paralysis in one arm, according to court documents. 

In a story published by The Daily News of Longview last month, the newspaper reported Hamilton has “racked up dozens of complaints, several professional disciplinary orders and had been subject to multiple state Health Department investigations over the course of her career, including a 1994 case in which an administrative health law judge determined Hamilton’s negligence was a factor in the death of a 21-year-old mother.”

She is currently under investigation in three cases by the Health Department, according to The Daily News.