By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Friday, December 30, 2016, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit against an OB/GYN accused of contributing to the death of a woman’s unborn child.
The court found that the trial court erred in dismissing Alabama resident Kimberly Stinett’s claim alleging the wrongful death of her unborn baby and granting summary judgement in favor of Karla Kennedy, M.D., on lack-of-proof-causation grounds.
Alabama Associate Justice Tom Parker (R) wrote in his concurring opinion, “Unborn children, whether they have reached the ability to survive outside their mother’s womb or not, are human beings and thus persons entitled to the protections of the law-both civil and criminal. Members of the judicial branch of Alabama should do all within their power to dutifully ensure that the laws of Alabama are applied equally to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, both born and unborn.” Parker asserted that the “viability” standard in the controversial US Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade was faulty.
The Alabama Supreme Court declared that Stinnett v. Kennedy may proceed, stating that unborn children are human beings and are entitled to legal protection. The court largely based its decision on an amendment in Alabama’s Homicide Act, which, “changed the definition of a ‘person’ who could be a victim of homicide to include an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”
Stinnett was pregnant and previously had an ectopic pregnancy. Suffering from abdominal cramps and fever, she went to see Dr. Kennedy, who was standing in for Stinett’s regular physician. Dr. Kennedy wrongly reached the conclusion that this pregnancy was also ectopic (in the fallopian tubes) and administered methotrexate, which the court noted is “intended to cause the end of the pregnancy.” When Stinnett’s regular physician, Dr. William Huggins, returned, he determined that she instead had an intrauterine pregnancy, which was failing, possibly as the result of the methotrexate. Stinnett later miscarried and then sued Kennedy for the death of her unborn child.
Dr. Kennedy asserts that the pregnancy was already failing and she was simply followed protocol. The lower court had disallowed the wrongful death suit against Kennedy, and the Alabama Supreme Court overturned that ruling.
The court wrote, “In light of the legislative recognition that a ‘person’ includes ‘an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability,’ we do not believe that probable progression to viability is the appropriate relevant proximate-cause inquiry in this case. Rather, we hold that, in order to establish proximate cause, Stinnett was required to show that Dr. Kennedy’s actions probably caused the death of the fetus, ‘regardless of viability.'”
Liberty Counsel Founder and CEO Mat Staver said in a statement, “Liberty Counsel applauds the Alabama Supreme Court and Justice Tom Parker for defending the legal rights of the unborn as clearly stated in Alabama law. We strongly urge other judges to do likewise as the value of human life is not a negotiable matter. The womb should be the safest place for a child and it must be legally protected. It’s time to turn the tables on Roe v. Wade.”