Articles Posted in Malpractice Verdicts

Good doctors commit malpractice less often than bad doctors. But sometimes, very meritorious medical malpractice lawsuits in Maryland are brought against very good doctors who made a very unfortunate mistake.

In Florida last week, an appeals court affirmed a $2.15 million verdict that has ballooned to $4.3 million because the case is 17 years old. The verdict was against a hip specialist who has operated on the likes of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Fiedler, golfer Greg Norman, hockey star Mario Lemieux, and Olympic skater Tara Lipinski. Pretty impressive group.

But in this case, a young woman cannot walk without a cane because the doctor gouged the smooth lining of her hip joint trying to repair an injury in 1997.

An Illinois woman who lost her unborn baby and a small intestine after being admitted to a hospital was awarded an $11.5 million judgment Tuesday by a DuPage County jury. The jury deliberated for about five hours before awarding awarding the mom $10.5 million for her injuries and $1 million for the death of her unborn child (presumably her husband was a plaintiff in this claim as well).

The hospital named in the lawsuit showed real class after the verdict was announced:

We are disappointed with the verdict, but continue to respect the jury system. [The Hospital] is committed to providing the finest care to all of its patients. We wish the best for [the plaintiff and her husband].

Metro Verdicts Monthly and the Maryland Daily Record report on a $4,947,837 verdict in Montgomery County for a young woman claiming medical malpractice caused her nerve and spinal injuries. The jury awarded $2.5 million for lost wages, $276,000 for medical expenses, $675,000 for loss of consortium, and $2.1 for non-economic damages (which will be reduced to the malpractice cap).

The claim of medical negligence was atypical, particularly for a successful case: the lawsuit claimed negligent manipulation, high-velocity neck-twist caused the injuries. The issue in the case boiled down to whether the doctor, a D.O., was negligent in his manipulation of her neck and whether there was informed consent of the patient. The manipulation apparently caused an internal disc disruption at C5 and damage to the dorsal scapular nerve of her brachial plexus.

The verdict was what it was because the Plaintiff was a young woman with significant future lost wages because she was unable to return to work as a physical therapist. It also sounds like she was an appealing plaintiff: she was a triathlete that had been on the swimming and cycling teams at Michigan State University.

This month’s Metro Verdicts Monthly provides the median verdict/settlement in Maryland wrongful death cases for victims over the age of 65 is $600,000.

I always caution about misleading figures, but this number is beyond misleading (through no fault of MVM). The data measures Maryland wrongful death settlements and verdicts in the last 23 years and ostensibly includes only cases of which Metro Verdicts Monthly is aware and, with respect to wrongful death settlements, it is not just medical malpractice cases and many wrongful death settlements in car accident cases are purely a function of the insurance policies available (sometimes in malpractice cases, too, but much less frequently).

Also, keep in mind this data includes settlements, which apparently reduce the numbers significantly. In another MVM study, juries have over the last 22 years awarded a median award of $1,337,824 involving victims over the age of 65 in Maryland wrongful death cases.

I wrote last week about the re-trial of a medical malpractice case in Illinois that discussed the issue of juror misconduct. You can find the article on the verdict here.

After that post, the jury reached a defense verdict after about two hours of deliberation.
It is hard to win a case you have already lost on juror misconduct because unless the lawyers dramatically alter their strategy, a pretty good “focus group” has already given their opinion on the case.

A recent Jury Verdict Research study looking at jury verdicts found that the average wrongful death verdict for men is $4,132,576 and the median is $1,400,000. The average wrongful death verdict for women is $3,158,223, and the median is $1,200,000.

It is tempting to look at these numbers and provide an easy answer to the discrepancy: men make more than women. But the average wrongful death verdict for a male minor is $4,300,663 (median is $2,000,000) and the average verdict for female minors is 3,438,080 ($1,500,000 median). So it seems pretty clear that, for whatever reason, jurors place a higher value on wrongful death cases involving men and boys than women and girls.

Medical malpractice verdicts made up 36% of the verdicts in this study. Of course, this does not count settlements in wrongful death cases nor does it count defense verdicts. Certainly, when you are factoring in the settlement value of a medical malpractice case, you also need to consider Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages because in most Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, the cap on damages is not going to give the victim’s family much more than $1.5 million unless the economic damages (medical bills and/or past and future lost wages) are significant.

Metro Verdicts Monthly reports on a $1,558,039 jury award in a medical malpractice case in Prince George’s County. Plaintiff’s malpractice lawsuit alleged median nerve damage as the result of medical malpractice.

Specifically, Plaintiff alleged the doctor negligently performed the carpal tunnel surgery, resulting in permanent damage to the median nerve.

The jury agreed, awarding $ 1,500,000 for non-economic damages, $ 11,251 for past medicals bills; and $ 46,788 for future medicals bills. The verdict was reduced to $ 693,039 due to the Maryland cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that a Hamilton County jury found that a local, prominent gastroenterologist must pay $12 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit after a colonoscopy and endoscopy, which were meant to diagnose a 33-year-old woman’s bowel problems, left the plaintiff with serious brain damage.

“It is very, very difficult to get a judgment against a doctor,” said Matt Dwyer, a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer who was apparently brought in on the case. “People don’t like to find doctors at fault.”

Under Tennessee’s comparative fault law, the jury found the doctor’s medical malpractice was 51% percent of the cause of Plaintiff’s permanent brain damage, so the actual verdict is $6.12 million.

Maryland’s average malpractice award payment is nearly $320,000, according to a study by the American College of Emergency Physicians. This is in line with the average settlement or verdict nationally of $285,000.

The following is a sampling of medical malpractice verdicts and settlements from Maryland:

  • 2020, Baltimore City: $1,355,722 Verdict. A 68-year-old man underwent a discectomy on his cervical spine. He bled profusely as the surgeon removed bones from his spine’s left side. The surgeon stopped the bleeding and continued the surgery. The man suffered multiple strokes and never woke up from anesthesia. He died the following day. An autopsy found that the man’s left vertebral artery was lacerated during surgery, which caused excessive bleeding. His estate alleged that the surgeon negligently approached the man’s spine from an angle that resulted in a severed artery that caused his strokes and death. Their neurosurgery experts opined that the surgeon also performed the surgery without knowing the artery’s exact location. The Baltimore City jury ruled in favor of the estate and determined that the damage amounted to $1,355,722. However, the non-economic damages award was capped at $785,000. The net recovery amounted to $840,722.

Yes, there are still medical malpractice lawsuits in Texas. It just requires an incredibly serious case. A Dallas County jury last week decided such a case, awarding $17.5 million to a former maintenance man for a North Dallas apartment complex who lost his arms and legs from a staph infection. Obviously, this is just an awful case.

This case involved a staph infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a strain of staph that’s resistant to the broad-spectrum antibiotics that are used to treat infections. In this case, the doctor gave the patient eight antibiotics but failed to give the one drug that would have treated for MRSA. The Plaintiff went into septic shock, causing infection and gangrene, necessitating the removal of both arms below his elbows and both legs below his knees.

The post medical malpractice cap award is approximately $7.5 million.