Emergency Room Treatment Delay Leads to $55 Million Verdict in Birth Defect Case

With the birth of her son imminent after several hours of labor at her home, a Waverly, Maryland, woman was rushed to a Baltimore hospital by ambulance for an emergency Caesarean section in March of 2010.

But instead of being instantly taken into an emergency room for immediate surgery, she had to wait for more than two hours until the procedure was started. That delay, according to a lawsuit she filed against Johns Hopkins Hospital, meant that critically-needed medical care wasn’t given to her son in time, resulting in his being born with severe, life-changing birth defects, according to a story in The Baltimore Sun.

Photo of a stethescope and a gavel. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Oxford

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury recently awarded the family $55 million in damages in the case, in which a jury sided with the plaintiffs after hearing testimony about the woman’s medical treatment at the hospital. The award was one of the largest in Maryland history for a medical malpractice case, the paper reported.

The woman, Rebecca Fielding, and her husband, Enso Martinez, wanted to deliver the baby at home with the help of a midwife but she had to be taken to the hospital when it became clear that she would require a C-section,  the paper reported.

Once there, that’s when the real problems began.

“The boy, now 2, suffered a loss of oxygen to the brain during his birth and was born with ‘severe and permanent global developmental delays, severe and permanent brain damage, multiple physical and mental disabilities, and cerebral palsy,’” according to the Sun report on the lawsuit. “The cause of his lack of oxygen was due to a compressed umbilical cord while still in his mother’s womb while at the hospital, in large part due to the fact that Fielding didn’t receive the urgent cesarean section she needed until more than two hours after arriving at the hospital.”

In their lawsuit, the couple argued that the hospital and the Johns Hopkins Health System Corp. ‘were negligent in their care for Fielding and the couple’s then-unborn son,” according to the Sun story. “They contend their child’s cerebral palsy and seizure disorder was caused by a loss of oxygen to the brain” that occurred due to the delay in treatment.

The hospital told the newspaper that it plans to appeal the verdict. In a prepared statement, a hospital spokesman said that “while we certainly sympathize with Ms. Fielding’s situation, we are frankly stunned and surprised that the jury found for the plaintiff in this case given the evidence that was presented. We strongly deny the allegations in Ms. Fielding’s complaint and continue to firmly believe that the medical care provided to Ms. Fielding by Hopkins was entirely appropriate given the circumstances.”

The award will be used to provide 24-hour-a-day care for the boy for the rest of his life. That will include $25 million for future medical expenses and a life-care plan and $4 million for future lost wages, according to the Sun. The family was also awarded $26 million for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, but due to a state cap on such damages that award was reduced to $665,000, the paper reported.

These kinds of medical malpractice cases highlight the kinds of problems that can arise when patients seek medical treatment in hospitals and other medical facilities. Medical errors, when incorrect procedures are undertaken or incorrect medicines are given, are two types of issues that happen, but delays in receiving critically-needed care are also problematic for patients.

These kinds of cases are clear reminders that patients and their families must be vigilant about the medical care that they receive.

But at the same time, patients and families aren’t doctors and they can’t know every question to ask. That’s where skilled, expert, compassionate and thorough legal representation is needed by patients and their families who have been harmed by medical errors or omissions during their treatment.

These kinds of cases happen on a regular basis, but they can be fought by legal teams that are prepared to fight for their client’s rights all along the way to a fair settlement or to a just verdict.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to help you and your loved ones if you are severely injured in an incident of medical malpractice.

When Winning Matters Most, call MyPhillyLawyer.