This week the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a multimillion dollar judgment against Johns Hopkins Hospital and returned the case to the lower court for retrial. The case was from February 2011 and it alleged that an infant was born with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy because the baby was deprived of oxygen as the mother waited for a Cesarean section at Hopkins. The plaintiffs were awarded $55 million, but it was later reduced to $28.3 because of the state cap on damages.
Now for the rest of the story. Originally, this birth was being attended to by a nurse midwife in the home of the parents. The midwife performed outdated procedures in her attempt to deliver the infant naturally, which eventually led to the injuries. The mother was brought to Johns Hopkins for the eventual delivery of the infant. During the trial, Hopkins was prevented from presenting expert testimony or showing evidence that the midwife was negligent. The plaintiff's lawyers were allowed tell the jury how the midwife's treatment was appropriate, but Hopkins was not allowed to say how it was negligent. As a result, the case was sent back for retrial. The outcome for the child and the family was horrific; however, the negligence rests with the midwife whose license has since been suspended because of this delivery and her handling of four other home deliveries over a three year period.
All too often, egregious acts take place outside of hospitals and we are left to make it right and, if we don't, we end up getting sued. When this verdict first came out, everyone was stunned as to the amount and the circumstances in which it was rendered. The original verdict has also had a dramatic impact on obstetrical deliveries in Baltimore city. Obstetricians began to move their practices out of Baltimore city and into the suburbs because of this and other jury verdicts. Doctors and hospitals have said that in recent years, jury verdicts in Baltimore have consistently favored the plaintiffs. In many of these cases, the jury rules in favor of the plaintiffs only because they feel that someone has to be responsible for the care of the child and it falls to doctors and hospitals with their deep pockets.
Thank God, the case was appealed and common sense on the part of the Court of Special Appeals prevailed, but I don't know if it's enough to reverse the flight of OBs back to Baltimore city.