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Jury decides doctor did not commit malpractice

Jun 28, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

A jury in Lander spent almost four hours Friday to determine that a Riverton doctor did not commit malpractice in the 2008 delivery of a baby who sustained injuries in the process.

The six-member jury in Lander's 9th District Court decided in favor of Dr. Stephen Rotholz, who was represented by Cheyenne-based attorneys Corinne Rutledge and J. Kent Rutledge.

The decision came at the end of a 10-day trial that resulted from a lawsuit filed by Brandi Jo Veach and Anthony James Rodriguez concerning their daughter, Kyra Kaye Rodriguez.

Through their attorney, Timothy Kingston, of Cheyenne, the couple sought between $725,111 and $864,611 for their daughter, who suffered injuries to her left shoulder during delivery March 31, 2008, at Riverton Memorial Hospital.

In their lawsuit against Rotholz, the couple accused the doctor of malpractice and negligence. The lawsuit was filed June 16, 2010.

The baby sustained permanent injuries that prevent her from raising her left arm above her shoulder. The couple wanted compensation for their daughter for future lost wages and earning potential as well as pain and suffering.

During closing arguments, Corinne Rutledge called her client's actions during the delivery "textbook medicine."

"The most serious risk to Kyra is death," she said about complications that arose during the delivery that could have also led to a "catastrophic hemorrhage" for the mother.

Rotholz performed a "swift, calm, expert execution of all the appropriate" maneuvers to deliver the baby in less than two minutes when significant challenges arose, Rutledge said.

A major issue in the case involved the doctor's use of a vacuum extractor to assist in the removal of the baby.

Rutledge said her client, using the vacuum, "gets Kyra out before she dies, before she suffers catastrophic brain damage."

District Judge Norman E. Young read jury instructions citing the doctor's arguments that injuries to the baby were the "natural result of the labor" and "not caused by anything Dr. Rotholz did or didn't do."

Young also read the jury instructions for the couple's case that stated the doctor never informed the mother of the vacuum's risks or provided alternative procedures, including a Caesarian section.

The baby's shoulder was next to the mother's pelvis during delivery and excessive force caused by a setting too high on the vacuum extractor resulted in injuries to the newborn, according to the couple's allegations.

During his closing arguments, Kingston blamed the doctor for causing the injuries.

"The absolute fact" of the case is "Dr. Rotholz used too much force when he pulled Kyra from her mother's womb," Kingston said.

He argued the doctor used the moderate traction setting on the vacuum when he should have used the gentle suction setting.

"That is when the injury occurred, when he is pulling Kyra out of her mother," he said.

Because he failed to tell the mother about the alternative procedures, "she was denied the ability to make an informed decision" about what she wanted to do, Kingston said.

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