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Sherrick v. Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists, P.C.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 7, 2018

LAUREN SHERRICK, Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark D. Cleve, Judge.

         A patient appeals a malpractice verdict in favor of her medical providers, claiming two evidentiary errors by the district court.

          James K. Weston II of Tom Riley Law Firm, Iowa City, for appellant.

          Robert V.P. Waterman, Jr. and Trista M. Beise (until withdrawal) of Lane & Waterman, LLP, Davenport, for appellee.

          Heard by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.


         This appeal arises from Lauren Sherrick's medical malpractice suit against Obstetrics & Gynecology Specialists, P.C.[1] Following a five-day trial, the jury returned a verdict finding the OB/GYN clinic was not negligent in treating Sherrick. On appeal, Sherrick challenges two evidentiary rulings from that trial. We find no abuse of discretion in the first ruling and no prejudice from the second. As a result, we affirm the verdict.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In July 2013, Sherrick began receiving prenatal care from midwives at the OB/GYN clinic in Davenport. Ten weeks into her pregnancy, Sherrick visited the OB/GYN clinic for an ultrasound appointment. The sonographer performed a transabdominal ultrasound.[2] Dr. Kenneth Naylor interpreted Sherrick's ultrasound following her appointment and reported no apparent abnormalities.

         The next month, Sherrick returned to the OB/GYN clinic twice-complaining of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, inability to urinate, and weight loss. A midwife prescribed medication for Sherrick's symptoms. At first Sherrick reported improvement. But her condition quickly deteriorated. Sensing "something wasn't right," Sherrick sought emergency care at Genesis Medical Center in early September 2013.

         Genesis admitted Sherrick for overnight monitoring. She underwent testing and received intravenous (IV) fluids and medication. Dr. Jessica Sandmeier oversaw Sherrick's treatment throughout the night. When Dr. Carolyn Martin arrived for her shift the following morning, she reviewed Sherrick's chart and conferred with Dr. Sandmeier. The two doctors believed Sherrick might be suffering from HELLP[3] syndrome. They discussed the risk of a partial molar pregnancy.[4] Dr. Martin agreed to review the results of an ultrasound scheduled that morning and follow up with Sherrick accordingly.

         Later that morning, Dr. Martin learned Sherrick's ultrasound revealed a partial molar pregnancy. Dr. Martin shared the difficult news with Sherrick. The doctor explained her pregnancy was not "viable" and had to be terminated for her health. After Dr. Martin outlined her treatment options, Sherrick chose transfer to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC). An ambulance transported Sherrick there. Upon arrival, Sherrick met with her treating physician, Dr. Abbey Hardy-Fairbanks. After the doctor terminated her pregnancy, Sherrick continued to receive care at UIHC for three days.

         Believing the OB/GYN clinic was negligent in failing to timely diagnose her partial molar pregnancy, Sherrick filed a malpractice lawsuit in July 2015. Sherrick focused on the OB/GYN clinic's decision to perform a transabdominal rather than a transvaginal ultrasound at the ten-week mark of her pregnancy and its failure to conduct more frequent urinalysis during August 2013. Sherrick alleged a transvaginal ultrasound would have revealed fetal abnormalities, increasing the probability of an earlier diagnosis. And urinalysis would have alerted OB/GYN physicians to the presence of ketones, a sign of hyperemesis that points to a potential partial molar pregnancy. Sherrick asserted had the OB/GYN clinic treated her in accordance with the standard of care, medical providers would have discovered her condition earlier, and the resulting physiological effects would not have been as significant.

         After Sherrick sued, the parties timely disclosed their expert witnesses. Sherrick named midwife Caron W. Jones as an expert, and added:

Plaintiff intends to rely on opinions expressed by her physicians at [UIHC]. These witnesses are not retained experts, but are Plaintiff's treating physicians and will offer opinions formed in the course of their treatment of Plaintiff. In addition, Plaintiff reserves the right to utilize additional treating health care providers who may or will testify regarding issues of informed consent, standard of care, causation and damages.

         The OB/GYN clinic designated several expert witnesses: Drs. Sandmeier, Margaret Smollen, Kenneth Naylor, and Carolyn Martin, as well as ...

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