$229 Million Verdict Delivered in Medical Malpractice Case
Jury Delivers Record Verdict in Medical Malpractice Case
(Photo from Lloyd Fox / The Baltimore Sun)
In October 2014, Erica Byrom was 25 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the labor and delivery department at Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton, MD.
According to the lawsuit filed in Baltimore, MD, the events that ensued over the next few days would leave Erica and her baby both emotionally and physically traumatized due to medical negligence at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Erica was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy condition which caused her extremely high blood pressure. Preeclampsia can cause a variety of different complications for both the mother and the baby, including impaired kidney and liver function, blood clotting, seizures, and even death if left untreated. Because preeclampsia affects the blood flow to the placenta, the condition often leads to small or prematurely born babies.
Once diagnosed, Erica was flown to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, MD where her preeclampsia continued to be monitored by medical staff. Dr. Emily Hahn, neonatologist, wrote in her report:
“During the consultation, we explained that the baby would be born sick with a high likelihood of death or neurodevelopmental disability.”
According to the lawsuit, once Erica heard this discouraging information, her urgency to deliver the baby immediately via cesarean section diminished. The medical team discussed her options, even to the point of termination of pregnancy, and fetal monitoring was suspended. Based on the poor diagnosis, Erica decided not to go through with the C-section and the doctor induced labor. Her baby, Zubida, was born vaginally two days later, weighing just one-and-a-half pounds.
Two minutes into Zubida’s life, her heart rate and breathing stopped. Doctors inserted a breathing tube and performed chest compressions for the next 10 minutes, just barely stabilizing her newborn heart. Zubida spent the next 2 months at Bayview before being transferred to Washington Pediatric Hospital.
According to Erica’s lawyers, there was a mistake in the initial prognosis of the baby and the brain damage could have been avoided had the medical team administered the cesarean section. Failure to do so, according to the lawsuit, resulted in permanent damage and lifelong effects as laid out in the complaint:
“As a direct and proximate result of the deviations [listed above in the complaint] from the applicable standards of care by the Defendant Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Inc., Zubida suffered and/or will suffer the following permanent injuries, among others: Pervintricular leukomalacia, microcephaly, barin damage, global volume loss of the brain, metabolic acidosis, developmental edlay, cognitive and mental impairment, neurological disabilities, seizures, physical impairment, significant conscious pain and suffering, emotional distress, permanently dependent upon others for her care…”
Erica’s lawyers attempted a settlement negotiation but were unsuccessful as the hospital denies all claims of negligence. Although the jury awarded $229 million, Maryland’s state cap will reduce the actual award to $200 million. [Read more about Ohio’s damage caps here.] In addition, Bayview plans to appeal the verdict which could result in a lesser amount or the elimination of the award as a whole.
Victims of Medical Malpractice
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to the National Healthcare Quality Report, one in 9,700 births result in birth injuries every year- that’s 30,000 newborns that experience some form of injury at birth annually.
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