ERNST & YOUNG
A jury in Baltimore opted to award the Anne Arundel County family nearly $35 million dollars in a recent judgment. The case put before the jury was particularly grueling as it involved the permanent disability of a newborn child. We look now at the circumstances of the event itself and the precise decision that the jury made in this case. Learn more about this case that ended with the disability of an infant child.
Dropping Oxygen Levels Led to Brain Damage
The case revolved around an incident on August 19, 2007, at MedStar Harbor Hospital. A newly born child had rapidly dropping oxygen levels without proper care, according to the judgment handed down by the jury. The child’s name is Jordan Biggs and he had trouble breathing immediately upon his birth. He was delivered approximately one month prematurely and had difficulties breathing almost instantly. Also, Jordan has a twin born healthy and without the disability of an infant child.
Jordan was admitted to the hospital at 5 am, and approximately fifteen minutes later, began to have difficulty breathing. The staff used a technique that involves blowing air from their own lungs into the baby’s face. Professionals deploy this technique with infants that are struggling to breathe immediately after birth. It was at about 5:40 am that Jordan’s condition worsened and he started to turn a bluish color as a result of a lack of oxygen.
The child was placed on a ventilator but also suffered multiple seizures while undergoing this extreme form of treatment. He was later brought to the Intensive Care Unit, but it was uncovered that because of his lack of oxygen for an extended period of time, he had suffered brain damage that was irreversible giving him a disability of an infant child.
Lasting Impacts Even Now
Jordan Biggs is now fourteen years of age, but he suffers from cerebral palsy and has other lasting impacts. Cerebral palsy is extremely serious and is defined by the CDC as having the following attributes:
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles.
Thus, it is a necessity that Jordan receives around-the-clock medical care. This is an expensive and time-consuming process, but the family is, of course, always going to provide this for him. However, it is one of the factors that the jury considered when they handed down their verdict.
The Jury’s Decision About the Disability of an Infant Child
The jury reviewed the case extensively and received in-depth documentation from both the plaintiff and the defense in this case. They had to review those facts carefully to determine exactly what happened and if the family should receive compensation for the incident.
What they decided was that they agreed with the plaintiffs in this case that Biggs received substandard care in this case. Nurses who initially treated the patient for declining oxygen levels received an alert that those levels were dropping. Proper procedure would have been to immediately contact the on-site pediatrician. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case (or at least there was no official documentation of it). The first official documented proof of the pediatrician being contacted was at 5:40 am. This was several minutes after Biggs had begun having serious problems breathing. Those few minutes of oxygen deprivation are likely what caused the extensive brain damage.
Given this set of determinations, the jury awarded the family $34.7 million dollars broken down into the following categories for the disability of an infant child :
- $1.2 million for past medical expenses already incurred
- $32.2 million for future medical expenses
- $1.4 million in future earnings loss
The earnings loss figure represents what the jury believes the family will have to give up in potential earnings from employment as a result of needing to provide around-the-clock care for Jordan. It is a recognition that the sacrifices that this family has to make extend beyond the hospital and doctor’s bills that they continue to receive.
A Recent Trend of Similar Lawsuits
It is a devastating fact that the Biggs case is just one in a string of recent lawsuits for the disability of an infant child. A Prince George’s County woman received a whopping $205 million dollars by a jury for a 2019 lawsuit involving very similar injuries that her child suffered at birth. In her case, the jury found that her doctors did not properly inform her of the heightened risk of cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, her child did suffer those injuries, and it resulted in this malpractice lawsuit and judgment. It was the largest medical malpractice judgment in United States history.
Interestingly, the Maryland Supreme Court stepped into this case and overturned the judgment rendered by the jury. The court ruled that the mother received proper warnings of the risk of brain damage to her child if she opted to forgo getting a cesarean section delivery.
Finally, Harbor Hospital was sued for medical malpractice for a very similar incident involving the delivery of a child in 2002. In that case, the child lost oxygen before birth and was delivered via a traditional vaginal birth. That child also ended up with cerebral palsy and the family sued. They won a $21 million dollar judgment in their case, and no higher court overturned it for them.
Learn More About the Lawsuit Over the Permanent Disability of an Infant Child
As you can see, there is a history of medical malpractice lawsuits in Maryland involving infants. It rips your heart out to hear these stories. However, there is at least a crumb of comfort that comes from knowing that the courts understand these situations. Indeed, they are awarding families large enough judgments to help them pay for the continued care of their children.
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