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Baltimore lawyer Daniel J. Miller won a confidential jury verdict on behalf of a client who alleged her obstetrician failed to order testing that would have shown her daughter had Down syndrome. "How can you make an informed decision about the health of yourself and your fetus if there’s no information?" Miller asked. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Jury finds liability in Baltimore ‘wrongful birth’ case

Plaintiff claimed doctor failed to order tests that would have shown daughter’s Down syndrome

A Towson woman whose daughter was born with Down syndrome will receive an undisclosed damages award after a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury found her obstetrician failed to order testing to find genetic defects and did not properly inform her of her level of risk.

Lakisha M. Pettiford did not learn that her daughter, Rylie, had Down syndrome until her birth, according to her lawyer, Daniel J. Miller, though tests in the first and second trimesters are available and recommended to determine if a fetus is at risk.

Pettiford alleged had she known her child was at a high risk for Down syndrome, she would have terminated the pregnancy, according to her complaint, filed in December 2013.

“Although it is hard to sit in front of your peers and talk about these things, the fact is the woman has a right to choose,” Miller said. “She has a right to terminate the pregnancy and no one can take that right away.”

Miller, of the Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller LLC in Baltimore, said Pettiford feels “vindicated” that a jury agreed her choice was taken away and the damages, which are confidential, will assist her with caring for Rylie.

“This is a disabled child with a future of costs [and] expenses,” he said. “The child will never reach the age of majority, so the parent will always be responsible to take care of them.”

Pettiford learned she was pregnant in early 2010 and visited Dr. Cyrus J. Lawyer at Metropolitan OB-GYN Associates LLC in Baltimore, according to the complaint.

She underwent a sonogram in March 2010 then again in June, at which time she was not advised of first- or second-trimester screenings, standard tests administered to rule out potential fetal abnormalities. The June sonogram was of poor quality and misread, according to the complaint, and should have indicated Pettiford was 10 times more likely to have a child with Down syndrome.

The case against the stenographer was resolved prior to trial, according to Miller, and Advanced Radiology and the radiologist were found not to be liable.

Pettiford had a second test in June that indicated her fetal risk for Down syndrome was doubled but the results “were not reported to or explained to Ms. Pettiford by Dr. Lawyer,” according to the complaint.

Had that test been conducted and results interpreted accurately, Pettiford would have learned she was twice as likely to have a child with Down syndrome than a normal person.

“With accurate and complete information about her and her fetus’ medical conditions, Ms. Pettiford would have been given the timely option and then would have reasonably and timely elected to terminate the pregnancy, an option chosen by approximately 92 percent of all similarly situated expectant mothers,” the complaint states.

Lawyer did not order screenings and failed to inform Pettiford of the results of the tests she did undergo, according to Miller.

“It’s amazing that so many things go on behind the scenes that the doctors should be communicating to their patients and they’re not,” he said. “How can you make an informed decision about the health of yourself and your fetus if there’s no information?”

The jury returned its verdict following three hours of deliberation at the end of a six-day trial, according to Miller.

Lawyer and Metropolitan OB-GYN were represented by Ronald U. Shaw of Shaw & Morrow P.A. in Hunt Valley. Shaw did not return a call requesting comment Monday afternoon.

Lakisha M. Pettiford et al. v. Cyrus J. Lawyer, M.D., et al.

Court: Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.: 24C13007889

Judge: Jeffrey M. Geller

Outcome: Liability against Cyrus J. Lawyer and Metropolitan OB-GYN Associates LLC in a bifurcated trial; confidential damages award.

Dates:

Incident: February to October 2010

Suit filed: Dec. 20, 2013

Verdict: March 4, 2016

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Daniel J. Miller, Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller LLC in Baltimore

Defendants’ Attorneys: Ronald U. Shaw of Shaw & Morrow P.A. in Hunt Valley; Natalie Madgeburger of Pessin Katz P.A. in Towson

Count: Medical malpractice

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