She is a 35-year-old mother who cannot have any more children. She has incontinence, is in pain and can’t have sexual intercourse.
Four years ago, Arlisa Cooper was a healthy woman who delivered a baby at a Houston hospital. But, according to a medical malpractice lawsuit she filed, doctors botched her episiotomy and then caused further damage in an operation to repair it.
“It is unbelievable that she could go in for such an uncomplicated procedure like that and come out of it like this,” said attorney Richard Tate, who, along with colleague John O’Quinn, represented Cooper.
Earlier this week, attorneys for both sides in the lawsuit reached an $8.4 million settlement just as the trial was about to start in the court of state District Judge Brady Elliott.
The agreement, expected to be signed today, is believed to be one of the largest personal injury settlements in Fort Bend County history.
Attorneys for the defendants declined Thursday to comment on the settlement or the case.
According to the lawsuit, Cooper’s ordeal started when Dr. Earl Lombard II participated in the delivery of Cooper’s son on Jan. 25, 1998. During the birth, an episiotomy, an incision to aid delivery, was performed.
“There was a total severe cut-tear all the way from the birth canal to the rectum. It was a fourth degree tear, that is the highest degree you can give a tear,” O’Quinn said Thursday.
O’Quinn said Lombard then tried to repair the wound.
Instead, O’Quinn said, Lombard’s procedure left Cooper with a rectovaginal fistula, an opening from the bottom of the tear to the rectum.
Cooper was not given any special care instructions before being sent home and was discharged from the hospital on Jan. 27, the suit states.
Shortly after arriving home, Cooper passed a stool through her birth canal, according to court documents.
Cooper remained in pain and discomfort and on March 13, an operation to repair the injuries was performed by Dr. Dandrea Brooks, O’Quinn said.
During the operation the patient’s rectal sphincter muscle was severed and other tissue was removed.
“The birth canal is so distorted and damaged that intercourse is too painful. It has destroyed the marriage of these two fine people,” O’Quinn said.
The lawsuit was filed against Columbia Woman’s Hospital of Houston, Texas, Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Caremark Inc., which owned the clinic until two years ago, Kelsey-Seybold Medical Group P.A. and the two doctors.
Under the terms of the settlement, the hospital is released from the lawsuit and pays nothing and the defendants admit no negligence or wrongdoing.
The agreement calls for the $8.4 million to be paid by Kelsey-Seybold Medical Group P.A., Caremark Inc. and the two physicians to Cooper, her husband and their son.
Jeff McClure, the lawyer representing the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, Kelsey-Seybold Medical Group and Brooks declined to comment on the case.
Mark Phelps, the lawyer for Lombard, also did not comment, and Caremark’s attorney did not return a call.
O’Quinn said Cooper was asking for $20 million in the suit. He said they agreed to the settlement because if a jury had awarded them that sum, the decision could have been reversed or reduced and any appeal could have taken years.