Maryland Birth Injury Lawsuit

In Maryland, the statute of limitations on birth injury lawsuits is more lenient than other states around the nation. Families whose child suffered a birth injury have five years from the date the injury occurred, or up to three years from the date of discovery before the child’s 11th birthday, to file a lawsuit. Because there are many birth injuries that result in conditions like cerebral palsy, which often cannot be properly diagnosed until a child reaches the toddler years or beyond, this extended statute of limitations makes it easier to prove that the child will have a lifetime of severe medical needs as a result of the birth injury.

MedStar Harbor Hospital Case

In 2014, a Maryland appeals court awarded a family a total of 20.6 million dollars, after an appeal by the hospital was rejected. In the appeal, the hospital claimed that the parents of the child, who suffered cerebral palsy after a birth injury during delivery, did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that the cerebral palsy was caused by the care of their facility or healthcare professionals.

The hospital provided one set of experts to testify that malpractice had not occurred in the case. The family provided another set of experts to testify that it did, and ultimately the jury of the appeals court chose to believe that the obstetrician, who failed to provide the mother with the option of an emergency C-section when the birth became problematic, was in fact at fault.

The child’s birth injury resulted in a condition called spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, in which mental development is normal, but physical disabilities are common. He will be forced to used a wheelchair for the rest of his life, and will require considerable medical care. The courts originally awarded the family 21 million dollars in damages; however, due to the state’s caps on non-economic damages, the appeals court granted them 20.6 million total.

HB 377

In light of cases like this one, and others wherein families have been awarded an excess of 50 million dollars for economic damages related to birth injury lawsuits, Maryland lawmakers have once again presented the HB 377 bill to the House and Senate.

This bill would create a fund that would provide for the needs of children who suffer from birth injury-related disabilities and disorders. The reintroduction of the bill in early 2016 is the third time the bill has been presented to the Maryland lawmakers.

Essentially the bill models the no-fault birth injury funds of states like Florida, wherein cases of proven medical malpractice are paid out first by the guilty party to a certain amount, and then by the fund for the rest of the amount. Those who support the bill consider it a good alternative for expensive legal battles that families must currently face when proving medical malpractice was the cause of their child’s injuries. Those who oppose the measure say that it would allow medical professionals and facilities to avoid the legal responsibilities of negligence.

The Department of Legislative Services states that the fund would be paid for by hospitals, and would reach a total of 7.8 million dollars by 2021. They estimate that six to seven children per year would be eligible to receive the funds, based on the number of convicted cases of birth injuries over the last decade. Other opponents, such as The League of Life and Health Insurers of Maryland, state that the bill contains language that would allow the state to use taxpayer money to fulfill the fund.

Those who are eligible for the fund would still have to prove to a Maryland court that a birth injury was the direct effect of negligence or malpractice on the part of a healthcare provider.

Sources:

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2014-02-10/health/bs-hs-birth-injury-fund-20140208_1_malpractice-insurance-enso-martinez-rebecca-fielding

http://marylandreporter.com/2016/02/15/debate-continues-over-creating-no-fault-birth-injury-fund/

CSA affirms $20.6M award in birth-injury case

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