In one of the country’s largest malpractice awards, a jury in Baltimore awarded Erica Byrom and her daughter Zubida $229.6 million. Byrom and her lawyers alleged negligence on the part of Johns Hopkins Bayview hospital after Zubida suffered brain damage and resulting cerebral palsy. The hospital appealed and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals recently overturned the jury decision.
Baby Suffers Serious Birth Injury
Erica Byrom was just 16 when she went to Johns Hopkins Bayview with preeclampsia. This is a potentially serious complication of pregnancy that can lead to premature birth and other issues. Byrom’s pregnancy was at 25 weeks, so doctors induced labor.
Byrom later said that doctors told her that her baby would inevitably have severe brain damage or not survive, so she decided not to have an emergency C-section. Doctors then stopped monitoring the baby. She survived but suffered oxygen loss for several minutes, leaving her with severe brain damage. Zubida now has cerebral palsy and will be disabled and need care for the rest of her life.
Her lawyers argued in a trial that the doctors did not provide Byrom with accurate information. They led her to believe the baby was not viable, which wasn’t true. If she had better information, they stated, Byrom would likely have agreed to a C-section and the baby would not have suffered birth injuries. A jury agreed and awarded her a record $229 million. Based on state caps on damages, the court reduced this amount to $205 million.
Overturning the Jury Decision
Johns Hopkins Bayview denied any negligence and insisted that doctors informed Byrom of all her options and the potential consequences. They appealed the jury decision, taking it to Maryland’s special appeals court.
The lawyers for Hopkins argued that doctors did disclose all the risks and gave Byrom all the information. In question was the tone and any emphasis the doctors put on certain options. Because they gave her all the information, though, the court did not see any negligence. Byrom, the court found, was responsible for the outcome.
Providing Compensation Through a State Fund
Byrom’s case brought up the issue of compensating families of children born with serious disabilities due to birth injuries. Lawmakers in Maryland have attempted to create a state fund that would provide this compensation, regardless of negligence, but with no success.
The compensation would come from hospitals, doctors, and their insurance companies. They would pay into a state fund that compensated all eligible families of babies with significant birth injuries. The idea is that the fund would limit malpractice birth injury lawsuits that can be very costly and raise the price of insurance and medical care.
The conclusion to this case brings to light a serious problem and the small victims that suffer the consequences. Mistakes and negligence happen during childbirth, and the babies with lifelong disabilities pay the price.