Record-Setting Malpractice Award over Birth Injury Upheld


A jury in a birth injury lawsuit awarded a mother and her daughter the largest medical malpractice amount in U.S. History. The award totaled $229.6 million for a child born with severe brain damage because of negligence. The young girl needs around-the-clock care because of the birth injury. Because Maryland state law caps non-economic damages in malpractice cases, a judge reduced the jury award to $205 million. The defendants challenged the award but a judge recently upheld it.

Girl Left Severely Brain Damaged

The case involved a woman who gave birth to a little girl with severe brain damage from birth injuries. Erica Byrom and her legal team argued that the damage caused to her daughter resulted from medical negligence. Just 16 at the time of delivery, Byrom was admitted to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in 2014.

Doctors at another medical center had diagnosed her with dangerously high blood pressure and preeclampsia. She was only 25 weeks pregnant at the time. The risks to both Byrom and her daughter were serious enough to warrant transfer to the Johns Hopkins facility.

There she was told by doctors that her baby was unlikely to survive or would survive only with serious brain damage. Because of that information Byrom chose not to have an emergency Cesarean section. She instead opted for induced labor. Her daughter was born two days later, premature, with no heartbeat, and weighing less than two pounds.

While doctors worked to revive the little girl, she suffered serious brain damage and now has lifelong disabilities because of oxygen deprivation. It was then found that the prognosis doctors gave Byrom initially was false. Given the correct information, Byrom and her legal team argued, she would have opted for a C-section and her daughter likely would not have suffered such severe brain damage.

The Record Award, Reduced

During a two-week medical malpractice trial, Byrom’s lawyers argued that she and her daughter suffered because of negligence on the part of the medical staff. The defendants’ lawyers claimed that the doctors were not to blame, that they were prevented from performing the emergency C-section by Byrom’s wishes.

The jury took just three hours to deliberate and returned with a record-setting $229.6 million for Byrom and her daughter, who needs 24-hour care just to survive. That amount was reduced by the judge to $205 million, still a record amount, because Maryland law caps the amount of money victims can receive for non-economic damages.

Judge Upholds Award, Defendants Still Appealing

As is typical in such large awards, the defendants appealed to try to get it reduced further, to get a new trial, or to get the award completely eliminated. The first round of appeals went in favor of Byrom and her daughter. A judge recently upheld the $205 million amount.

The judge also denied the defendants’ motion for a new trial. The Johns Hopkins hospital will continue its appeal, though. The next likely step will be to go to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. While the case continues to wind through courts, Byrom and her daughter still suffer the terrible consequences of medical negligence. The little girl will never be able to speak very much, to walk on her own, or to be independent. But the jury sent a message, and judges are now upholding that message, that doctors must be held accountable.

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