A jury has awarded $10,200,575 to the mother of Olivia Coats, who sued Dr. George Backardjiev and the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, claiming that his use of forceps crushed Olivia’s skull and led to her death, just six days after her delivery. Backardjiev’s defense was that he acted safely and reasonably to deliver Baby Olivia.
Attorney for the Coats family, Malachi Daws, stated, “It’s real tough. On the one hand I think that they are anxious to get this chapter of their lives behind them but on the other hand it is opening up old wounds.”
Olivia’s paternal grandmother, Angie Coats, was present at Olivia’s birth. She reported that Backardjiev told her daughter-in-law, “‘No, you don’t want a C-section. You’ll have a scar.’” Coats claims that Backardjiev tried to turn Olivia with his hands, but “[w]hen he couldn’t do that, he took the small forceps to try to pull the baby out. He kept going and even put his foot up on the bed trying to pull…. 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.”
Backardjiev’s attorney has stated that Olivia’s tragic death was not the result of negligence; rather Backardjiev cared for Olivia’s mother and stayed all evening with her.
The CEO of The Medical Center of Southeast Texas, Matt Roberts, released a statement that Olivia’s death “rips at our hearts and words are insufficient to express how much our sympathies go to this loving family…. While patient privacy and peer review restrictions prevent the hospital from commenting specifically, the hospital administration and independent medical staff immediately initiated a review of all aspects of this case. Our independent medical staff leadership shares in the hospital’s commitment to take all necessary actions to understand why this happened.”
Dr. Ferdinand Plavidal, Houston obstetrician and gynecologist, testified on Backardjiev’s behalf. Plavidal has been in practice for over 20 years and has served as President of the Houston Gynecologic and Obstetric Society and on national workgroups for prenatal safety with the Hospital Corporation of America.
Plavidal testified that Backardjiev’s actions were safe and reasonable at the time of delivery. Plavidal said that Backardjiev was likely readjusting or re-positioning the forceps. Plavidal opined that forceps are becoming more challenging because of a lack of education. He testified that when a baby’s head is stuck in the pelvis, the use of forceps is the most effective response. He further testified that there is a misconception that c-sections are safe. Plavidal stated that c-sections can cause serious dangers for moms. Plavidal did admit that Backardjiev’s description of how he used forceps on Olivia is less safe than other methods.
“The Olivia Law”
Olivia’s family is also looking for support in getting a law passed that they refer to as “The Olivia Law.” The proposed law would require obstetricians to inform expectant mothers of the risk of forceps that are used during delivery and to obtain written consent to allow mothers the choice to decline the use of forceps during delivery.