Woman Who Never Saw Doctor Claims Mistreatment; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

August 19, 2019

Major Award for Injuries Sustained During Childbirth

In what some have called the largest medical malpractice judgment ever in the United States, a Baltimore jury awarded a woman and her permanently brain-injured daughter $229 million, according to a story reported in The Baltimore Sun and other news outlets.[3]

Five years ago, at 25 weeks' gestation, pregnant 16-year-old Erica Byrom went to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, in Baltimore, with dangerously high blood pressure from preeclampsia. In her suit, Byrom claimed that doctors at the hospital erroneously explained to her that, in her present condition, it was likely that her baby would die or suffer brain injury.

As a result, they intended to induce labor and, according to the defense, recommended that Byrom undergo a cesarean section, the safest method of delivery under the circumstances.[4]

Faced with the prospect of delivering a dead or brain-injured baby, Byrom elected to forgo a C-section and have a vaginal delivery instead. Her suit said that she was in labor for 22 hours, during which time her baby was deprived of sufficient oxygen. Following birth, the baby was diagnosed with hypoxic brain injury, which caused cerebral palsy, as well as with microcephaly and seizures.

Attorneys for the hospital argued that the doctors treating Byrom were not negligent: "Defendant [Hopkins] was prevented from performing a C-section and the injury occurred after plaintiff tied defendant's proverbial hands with regard to the method of delivery that could be performed."

Byrom's attorneys agreed that their client should have received a C-section. They argued, however, that she refused it because doctors had mistakenly told her that her baby would die or suffer brain injuries.

The plaintiff's award will almost certainly be reduced under a state law capping malpractice verdicts, but may still exceed $200 million. Meanwhile, the hospital has promised that it will appeal the judgment: "The verdict was not supported by the evidence," a spokesperson said.

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