Opelika woman loses lawsuit after Columbus hospital mislabels stillborn baby

Opelika woman loses lawsuit after Columbus hospital mislabels stillborn baby

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – An Opelika woman who sued Midtown Medical Center for emotional distress after mislabeling the remains of her stillborn child lost her lawsuit by the Georgia Supreme Court.

The mislabeling of her stillborn child resulted in the mom, Amanda Rae Coon, burying the wrong baby.

On Feb. 8, 2011, Coon, who was 37-weeks pregnant, went for a routine prenatal examination in Columbus and there she learned that her baby did not have a heartbeat.

The next day, she was admitted to the Medical Center, where she delivered her stillborn baby girl. After the delivery, Coon's father informed the hospital's bereavement coordinator that the baby's remains were to be released to a funeral home in Alabama.

The coordinator placed Coon's baby in a separate holding room until someone could take the remains to the hospital morgue. In addition to Coon's baby, there was a smaller stillborn baby boy, who was less than 20 weeks in gestation, already in the holding room.

A nurse volunteered to transport both babies from the holding room to the morgue. Under a new hospital policy, she filled out the identification tags that were to be placed on the arm and leg of the stillborn babies, as well as on the outside of the cadaver bags.

A security guard who was to escort the nurse to the morgue offered to help put the tags on the bodies and the bags. In doing so, they mixed up the identification tags so that Coon's baby was tagged with the smaller baby's identification tags and vice versa.

As a result, the hospital mistakenly released the wrong baby to the Opelika funeral home. On Feb. 12, 2011, Coon, her husband and other family members held a funeral at an Opelika cemetery for the baby they believed was Coon's.

About two weeks later, the hospital discovered it had released the wrong baby to the Opelika funeral home. Later that day, the hospital's chief executive officer contacted Coon and told her what had happened. The following day, the baby who had been mistakenly released to the funeral home was exhumed from the Opelika cemetery.

In March 2011, Coon sued the hospital, seeking damages for emotional distress. The hospital filed a motion for "summary judgment," which a judge grants only after determining that a jury trial is unnecessary because the facts of the case are undisputed and the law clearly falls on the side of one party or the other.

The hospital argued that Coon had no claim for emotional distress under Georgia's "impact rule," which requires that in a claim involving negligent conduct, recovery for emotional distress is allowed only where the person suffered a physical injury or monetary loss.

Coon suffered no physical injury or pecuniary loss, and the conduct of the hospital was not intentional, reckless, extreme, or outrageous."

"The facts of this case, while tragic, do not warrant the creation of a new exception to the physical impact rule."

On Monday, Midtown Medical Center released the following statement:

"It's our longstanding policy not to discuss lawsuits involving patients. We extend our compassion to the Coon family."

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