Maryland Birth Injury Verdict of $205M Overturned By Appeals Court

An appeals court has overturned a $205 million verdict in a Maryland birth injury lawsuit brought against Johns Hopkins Bayview hospital, which was one of the largest medical malpractice awards in U.S. history.

The case was brought by Erica Byrom, on behalf of herself and her daughter, Zubida, who suffered brain damage during birth at the Maryland hospital, alleging that the child developed cerebral palsy due to a misdiagnosis of preeclampsia during labor and delivery.

Byrom was 25 weeks pregnant when admitted to Johns Hopkins Bayview in October 2014, showing signs of severe preeclampsia. However, her lawsuit claimed doctors told her Zubida was viable outside of the womb, but that the baby would die or be severely brain damaged if she underwent a cesarean section delivery. Byrom indicates she declined a C-section procedure based on the doctors’ recommendations.

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In July 2019, a Baltimore jury ruled in Byrom’s favor and she was initially awarded $229 million. That verdict was reduced later to $205 million due to malpractice caps limiting the amount plaintiffs can receive from jury verdicts.

However, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued a decision this week overturning the verdict, after determining evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain the award. According to the ruling, hospital staff warned Byrom that she should have a cesarean section delivery, but she refused; stipulating she would only undergo the procedure if her own life was in danger, and instead opted to have a vaginal delivery.

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that may be attributed to brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. If the child’s brain is deprived of oxygen around the time of birth, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities.

Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. It can lead to seizures and strokes and is often preceded by high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease. It is the leading cause of pregnancy-related complications and pregnancy-related death worldwide.

Despite the prevalence of preeclampsia, U.S. hospitals are often unprepared to treat the condition. In fact, more women die during or right after childbirth due to preeclampsia in the U.S. than any other developed country. More than 60% of those deaths are preventable, health experts say.

Preeclampsia is common in the United States, but research indicates simple interventions can help prevent preeclampsia deaths. Measures like proper and thorough in-take to assess risks at check-in, blood loss monitoring, and weighing bloody pads can all help prevent unnecessary deaths.

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