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Baltimore mother, son win $4.1 million verdict

Jury awards damages for negligence that caused boy’s cerebral palsy

A Baltimore City jury has awarded $4.1 million to a woman and her 8-year-old son who alleged that the negligence of University of Maryland Medical Center doctors caused his cerebral palsy.

Nicole Player claimed doctors did not deliver Darryl Gholston Jr. immediately but instead waited for more than 12 hours after noticing his umbilical cord had dropped below his body, a potentially life-threatening condition. Gholston was delivered approximately three months prematurely in September 2002 and weighed less than 2 pounds. He spent more than two months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The verdict, announced Friday, includes $1.1 million in noneconomic damages, which would be lowered to $605,000 under Maryland’s cap.

“The deviations from the standard of care were pretty obvious,” said Keith Forman of Wais, Vogelstein & Bedigian LLC in Pikesville, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Player’s pregnancy was overseen by UMMC doctors in the summer of 2002 after she had an abnormal pap smear, according to the complaint filed in August 2009. An August 2002 sonogram showed signs of a weakened cervix, and Player was taken to the emergency room. Further tests showed the fetus was healthy, and Player was placed on bed rest, the suit alleges.

The complaint states that Player’s amniotic fluids were checked three times through mid-September and found to be at normal levels. But a sonogram the morning of Sept. 19, 2002, showed low fluid levels and the umbilical cord in the cervix. Player was transferred to labor and delivery for closer inspection, the suit states.

Darryl was delivered later in “respiratory distress” and required resuscitation, according to the complaint. Forman said the oxygen deprivation led to Darryl’s cerebral palsy.

“Although evidence of [the umbilical cord in the cervix] was present since the morning of September 19, 2002, the Defendants deviated from the standard of care by waiting until 10:45 p.m. to call for the Caesarian section delivery,” the lawsuit alleges.

The jury of three men and three women deliberated for two hours following a two-week trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court before Judge Wanda K. Heard. Forman said his client was “in tears” when the verdict was announced.

J. Mark Coulson of Miles & Stockbridge P.C. in Baltimore, the hospital’s lawyers, did not return a phone call Friday afternoon seeking comment.

Court: Baltimore City Circuit
Case No.: 24C09005519
Proceeding: Jury trial
Judge: Wanda K. Heard
Outcome: Plaintiffs
Award: $4.1 million
Incident: Sept. 19, 2002
Suit filed: Aug. 27, 2009
Disposition: Nov. 5, 2010
Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Keith Forman and Nathan Malloy of Wais, Vogelstein & Bedigian LLC in Pikesville
Defense Attorneys: J. Mark Coulson and Matthew P. Phelps of Miles & Stockbridge P.C. in Baltimore
Count: Negligence