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Woman rendered infertile awarded $2.5M

A Milford Mill woman was awarded $2.5 million Monday from a Baltimore obstetrics practice for not diagnosing an ectopic, or tubal, pregnancy that ultimately rendered her infertile.

Lutrice Williams required emergency surgery to remove her ruptured left fallopian tube in February 2008, two years after she had her right Fallopian tube removed due to another ectopic pregnancy.

Though Williams missed time at work and incurred medical expenses because of the 2008 surgery, her lawyer only asked the Baltimore City Circuit Court jury for non-economic damages from Metropolitan OB/GYN Associates LLC.

“The economic damages paled in comparison to what she lost,” said H. Briggs Bedigian. “We wanted to keep the jury focused on the human element.”

Thomas C. Morrow, a lawyer for Metropolitan and one of its nurse midwives, Tarnisha Hemphill, said he had not yet talked with his client about an appeal.

The cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases would reduce Williams’ award to $650,000, said Bedigian, of Wais & Vogelstein in Pikesville. Bedigian and his firm are challenging the constitutionality of the non-economic damages cap in another case to be heard Friday by the Court of Appeals.

Williams was seen by Hemphill on Feb. 7, 2008, at a Park West Medical Center clinic for prenatal care, according to the complaint. (Park West was dropped as a defendant in the case prior to trial, Bedigian said.)

A pregnancy test was positive, and Williams complained of spotting with left-side pain, nausea and vomiting, according to the complaint.

Williams left the clinic that day without the ectopic pregnancy being diagnosed, the complaint states. She went to the emergency room at Northwest Hospital Center six days later, where doctors diagnosed the abnormal pregnancy and discovered during surgery the Fallopian tube had ruptured.

Morrow said Park West did not perform a sonogram on Williams as Hemphill had ordered. Hemphill was a contract employee for the clinic who could only write the sonogram order, Morrow said, adding he was barred from showing jurors such evidence during the five-day trial.

“Somebody dropped the ball, and the only person there was Tarnisha Hemphill,” said Morrow, of Shaw, Morrow & Joseph P.A. in Hunt Valley.

Metropolitan might file a claim against Park West to contribute to the verdict, Morrow added.

The defense also argued Williams could still have a baby through in-vitro fertilization. Bedigian acknowledged Williams was a candidate for IVF, but she testified she had “no interest” in the procedure after meeting with an IVF counselor. Williams had a child prior to her ectopic pregnancies and was trying to conceive again with her longtime fiancé, Bedigian said.

Bedigian, in his closing argument Monday morning, asked jurors to award Williams between $750,000 and $1 million. The jury deliberated for 35 minutes before returning a verdict to Judge Audrey J.S. Carrion, he said, and afterward several jurors hugged Williams.

“She was elated,” Bedigian said. “She really believed she was wronged.”