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Montgomery Co. jury returns $44.1M verdict against fertility doctor

A Montgomery County Circuit Court jury has awarded $44.1 million to a Bethesda couple who claimed a Rockville fertility doctor who did not properly screen the surrogate who carried their child.

Andrew and Marni Hotchkiss learned after the surrogate became pregnant that she had a history of complications she did not disclose to the doctor, Sui T. Ng-Wagner. The surrogate developed the complications again, causing her to deliver prematurely the Hothckisses’ child in May 2012, according to the complaint.

Finley Ever Hotchkiss was born at 25 weeks and died after 21 days from overwhelming sepsis, according to the lawsuit, filed in December 2014.

Jurors returned their verdict Friday after less than an hour of deliberations verdict at the end of a weeklong trial, according to Michael H. Feldman, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers. The verdict includes $42 million for wrongful death and $2.1 million for survival actions but will be reduced to approximately $890,000 under Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, according to Feldman, of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP in Gaithersburg.

The size of the jury verdict made the Hotchkisses feel vindicated, according to Feldman.

“When they came back with a verdict that large, that was telling my clients that they believed them and they were wronged,” said Feldman, who tried the case with Sidney Schupak, Gaithersburg solo practitioner.

Defense counsel Robert J. Farley said appropriate post-trial motions will be filed, including a request that the judge remit a portion of the verdict which is subject to the cap on noneconomic damages.

“Plaintiff’s counsel inappropriately argued to the jury that it should send a message that this ‘not happen again’ and that the jury acted in a punitive role and entered a rogue verdict,” said Farley, of Wharton, Levin, Ehrmantraut & Klein P.A. in Annapolis.

The surrogate, Christina Jensen, misrepresented the number of children she had given birth to, including a child born prematurely due to preeclampsia, according to Feldman.

Jensen was prosecuted in her native Pennsylvania for some of her actions related to carrying the Hotchkisses’ child, eventually pleading guilty to forgery and being placed on probation, according to electronic court records.

Ng-Wagner did not review Jensen’s medical records but instead relied on her statements about her obstetrical history, according to Feldman, which the plaintiffs’ expert witness testified violated the standard of care.

A defense expert testified to the contrary, stating that it was standard to take the word of the surrogate.

“You’ve got all these different experts saying different things, but filter that through your common sense,” Feldman said.

Andrew Hotchkiss et al. v. Sui T. Ng-Wagner, et al.

Court: Montgomery County Circuit

Case No.: 398456V

Judge: Richard E. Jordan

Outcome: $44.1 million verdict for plaintiffs; $42 million for wrongful death, $2.1 million for survival actions and $5,000 for funeral expenses

Dates:

Incident: December 2011 to May 2012

Suit filed: Dec. 15, 2014

Verdict: March 11, 2016

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Michael H. Feldman of Berman, Sobin, Gross, Feldman & Darby LLP in Gaithersburg and Sidney Schupak of The Law Offices of Sidney Schupak LLC in Gaithersburg

Defendants’ Attorney: Robert J. Farley of Wharton, Levin, Ehrmantraut & Klein P.A. in Annapolis

Count: Medical malpractice

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One comment

  1. hkpjayasuriya@ober.com

    Could you please post the final order and / or complaint for this case?