Multi-million dollar medical malpractice verdicts aren’t common, but they do happen—and 2019 saw courts in several states award such large recoveries to plaintiffs injured by medical malpractice.
Maryland:$205 Million Verdict for Birth Injuries
In July 2019, a Maryland jury awarded $229 million in a case in which an infant girl suffered brain injuries during her birth at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The award was reduced to $205 to comply with a state cap on medical malpractice verdicts.
The plaintiff’s mother claimed that she was told, inaccurately, that her unborn baby was non-viable and that terminating her pregnancy was an option. She chose to carry to term, but based on the information given, she declined a C-section and medical staff stopped monitoring the fetus.
Due to the lack of monitoring, the baby didn’t receive sufficient oxygen during birth and suffered severe cerebral palsy. As a result, the baby required round the clock care. The child is now nearly five years old.
The hospital has stated a plan to appeal the award. The $229 million initial verdict was significantly larger than the plaintiffs had originally sought.
Illinois: $101 Million Verdict for Birth Injuries
In November 2019, a jury in Cook County, Illinois awarded $101 million to a single mother whose child was born with serious brain damage in 2014. Although test results during labor showed that the baby was not moving, indicating the need for an immediate C-section, that procedure was not performed. The baby was born with brain damage that prevents him from walking, speaking, or feeding himself.
The plaintiffs will receive $50 million, under an agreement reached by the parties to cap the total amount prior to the verdict.
Illinois: $23.5 Million Verdict for Birth Injuries
In March 2019, a separate Cook County, Illinois jury awarded $23.5 million for severe brain damage to an infant caused by lack of oxygen and a delayed C-section at Presence St. Joseph Hospital.
During the baby’s birth in 2014, fetal monitoring indicated that the child was in distress and that an emergency C-section was warranted. The C-section, however, was not performed for over three hours.
California: $10 Million Verdict in “Hybrid” Professional Negligence Case
California has set a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims. To get around this cap, however, some plaintiffs have alleged a combination of professional negligence and medical battery. Professional negligence is not limited by California’s Medical Injury Tort Compensation Reform Act (MICRA).
In fall 2019, a California jury awarded approximately $22,000 in economic and $9.25 million in non-economic damages to a plaintiff under such a hybrid claim. The plaintiff had signed a consent for a “local excision of scrotal mass, possible cystoscopy” after a pea-sized lump was discovered in his scrotum. During surgery, however, doctors discovered that the mass extended into the patient’s penis, threatening urethral function.
Rather than consulting the patient’s ex-wife, who was authorized to make medical decisions for the patient while he was unable, doctors simply removed the entire mass, which also meant removing a large part of the plaintiff’s penis.
The plaintiff sued, stating that the doctor who made the decision had committed professional negligence, that the plaintiff neither knew nor consented to the removal of the additional tissue, and that by removing the additional tissue, the doctor had committed medical battery.
The jury awarded $9.25 million in non-economic damages. Despite the defendant’s submission of a motion to have the case considered under MICRA and its $250,000 non-economic damages cap, the court declined to apply MICRA to the case. The result was an award far larger than MICRA’s cap would have permitted in a case that is functionally identical to a standard medical malpractice claim.
Maine: $1.2 Million for Hematoma Injury Claim
In 2015, the plaintiff was struck by a piece of debris on her right leg, which developed a hematoma. She went to the emergency room for treatment, where she informed the staff that she takes the blood-thinning medication, Coumadin. According to the plaintiff, she was discharged with no instructions on how to care for or monitor the hematoma. She was also told to keep taking Coumadin, which worsened the hematoma.
The hematoma ruptured the next day, revealing a large blood clot. Subsequent surgery removed the clot and surrounding dead skin. Two more procedures were required to perform a skin graft.
The jury found the hospital liable for medical negligence, awarding the plaintiff over $1.2 million for her medical expenses, pain and suffering, and permanent impairments.