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The parents of Olivia Marie Coats promise to sue obstetrician, Dr. George T. Backardjiev, but not The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, where their daughter was born on Dec. 28.  Rachel Melancon and Allen Coats said it is not the hospital’s fault; they only want justice from the person responsible – Dr. Backardjiev.  Olivia died after a forceps delivery crushed her skull and spine.

According to the couple, Dr. Backardjiev refused to perform a Cesarean section on Rachel, and instead opted to deliver Olivia vaginally using forceps.  Rachel, a small woman of 4’11” and 95 pounds, said she was concerned about her health and the health of her baby because of Olivia’s size, but Dr. Backardjiev refused to perform the C-section, telling Rachel that it would leave her with a scar.  During the 18 hour delivery, Olivia’s heart rate climbed and Rachel was running a 103 fever, but she was told to wait.  After five hours, the doctor told Rachel she could begin to push, but Olivia was facing the wrong way in the birth canal.  Dr. Backardjiev unsuccessfully attempted to turn Olivia with his hands.  What followed next was horrific.

According to Rachel, when the doctor attempted to use forceps, “he kept going and even put his foot up on the bed trying to pull,” she said. “He was turning and twisting and she would never come out. He put the forceps one way and the other. When he touched the top and side of the skull, we heard a pop, like clay cracking in pottery and heard her skull crush.”

Rachel was eventually then taken for an emergency C-section, but it was too late.  Olivia died on Jan. 2.  Rachel and Allen will never have the opportunity to record Olivia’s milestones – crawling, walking, saying her first word, starting school.  Nothing will replace their loss.  Under the laws of most states, a medical malpractice wrongful death claim can provide:

  • Cost of medical care between negligence and death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost wages or earnings
  • Mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering
  • Non-economic damages – mental anguish, pain and suffering, and the loss of love and companionship.

In this case, there are limited economic damages; no medical care is required and there is no future loss of earning capacity for an infant.  The majority of damages will fall under non-economic damages, those restricted at $250,000 under Texas tort reform law.  Additionally, punitive damages are capped at the greater of $200,000.00 or two times economic damages plus non-economic damages up to $750,000.00 maximum.  Since non-economic damages will likely be the maximum $250,000.00, punitive damages will be capped at $250,000.00.  Assuming Dr. Backardjiev is found negligent, the most he can be held accountable under Texas law, according to our calculations, is $500,000.  Here is a stark example of how Texas tort reform protects the negligent wrongdoers and places profits over the well-being of innocent victims.

Our court system is supposed to be about justice, fairness, and individual rights.  Tort reform undermines our right to hold wrongdoers accountable for their negligent actions.  Anyone reading this post who is motivated to do something to stop tort reform is asked to contact your local representatives and tell them “no caps on non-economic damages”.  Someday, it may be you or someone you love who is victimized by tort reform

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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