July 8, 2012

On June 12, 2012, a Maryland medical malpractice jury awarded the family of a newborn $20.9 million for the baby’s permanent paralysis of his left arm allegedly due to the delivering obstetrician pulling too hard on the baby’s head during delivery, thereby causing left obstetrical brachial plexus palsy (injuries to the nerves that extend from the neck to the fingers).

The now six-year-old’s left arm is smaller than his right arm and does not functional normally, which has subjected him to being treated differently by his peers. He currently has difficulty doing simple, everyday things such as tying his shoes and washing his hands. The injuries to his nerves are permanent in nature and therefore will affect him throughout his life.

The medical malpractice jury heard differing testimony from the parties’ experts over six days of trial during which the plaintiffs’ experts testified that the boy’s head emerged during the delivery but his shoulder got stuck on his mother’s pelvic bone, a condition known as shoulder dystocia. In order to deliver the baby, the obstetrician allegedly forcefully pulled on the baby’s head, in violation of the standard of care, which caused the boy’s injuries. The medical malpractice defendants’ experts testified that the force used was not excessive and that the obstetrician did not deviate from the standard of care.

After deliberating for approximately two hours, the medical malpractice jury returned its  verdict, awarding $53,720.17 for past medical expenses, $582,999.00 for anticipated future medical expenses, $244,363.00 for the boy’s lost earning capacity, and $20 million for noneconomic damages (pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.). The Maryland cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases automatically reduced the noneconomic damages awarded by the jury to $650,000.

The medical malpractice defendants’ attorney has vowed to file for a new trial based on what he perceived as the medical malpractice jury’s failure to following the jury instructions it was provided by the trial judge. The defendants’ attorney believes that the jury attempted to punish the defendants by its verdict and that the verdict for noneconomic damages was excessive.

Source: Arnett, et al. v. Vinayakom, et al., Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland, Case No. CAL10-02954.

The amount awarded by the medical malpractice jury in this case for noneconomic damages may seem at first blush to be excessive until you consider that the amount of the jury’s award was intended to compensate the boy and his family for all of their noneconomic damages, such as past, present, and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, disfigurement, etc., that will last the lifetime of a presently six-year-old boy (that is, for more than 70 years into the future).

On the other hand, one must wonder if the sum of $650,000 (the amount of the cap in effect in Maryland for noneconomic damages at the time of the Defendants’ alleged acts of medical malpractice) is fair or sufficient to compensate the medical malpractice plaintiffs, including the young boy, for their noneconomic damages, which amounts to about $15.00 per day if only the boy’s noneconomic damages are considered. One must ask, would you be willing to accept the sum of $15,00 per day in exchange for suffering the injuries sustained by the little boy?

If you, a loved one, a family member, or a close friend suffered injuires as a result of medical negligence, you should promptly seek the advice of a local medical malpractice attorney to learn about your rights and responsibilities in the matter.

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