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Jury awards $229 million in Hopkins birth injury case

A Baltimore city jury awarded more than $229 million in a birth injury malpractice case against Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Inc. Monday.

The award, which includes $200 million in future medical expenses, $3.6 million in past medical expenses and $1 million in lost earning capacity, came at the conclusion of a 15-day trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The jury also awarded $25 million in noneconomic damages, which will be subject to the state’s mandatory cap.

“We feel like justice was served and we look forward to the appellate process if need be,” said attorney Keith D. Forman, who represented the child, Zubida Byrom, and her mother, Erica Byrom, with co-counsel Mary M. Koch.

Jurors deliberated for less than three hours before returning the verdict Monday. Forman said Erica Byrom is grateful for the jury’s verdict.

“I think their verdict was based on the evidence, but I argued to the jury in closing that I thought (Hopkins’) conduct was despicable,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Johns Hopkins Medicine said Tuesday that the hospital will be appealing the verdict.

“Our hearts go out to this child and her family,” Kim Hoppe said in an emailed statement. “While federal HIPAA privacy laws do not permit us to discuss the details of a specific case, we are confident that the care we provided was appropriate in this case.”

Zubida Byrom was born on Oct. 24, 2014, after labor was induced, according to the complaint. She was premature and weighed less than 1.5 pounds, requiring hospitalization after her birth. She has brain damage and developmental delays.

Erica Byrom, who was 15 when she became pregnant, went to the hospital on Oct. 20, 2014, and was transferred to Johns Hopkins Bayview because she had “severe pre-eclampsia” at 25 weeks gestation.

Forman, of Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt LLC in Baltimore, said doctors provided Erica Byrom “mountains of wrong information” about the baby the day after she was admitted and went from telling her she and the baby had a “fair” chance of a positive outcome to the baby having zero chance of normal brain function.

Forman said Byrom initially consented to a cesarean section but was later told neonatal intensive care unit doctors would not be present at the birth and would only provide “comfort care” if the child was born still alive. Doctors also offered Byrom a termination, which was not supposed to be an option after 24 weeks gestation absent genetic anomalies, he said.

A neonatologist was consulted and told Byrom “the baby would be born sick with a high likelihood of death or neurodevelopmental disability” and would require prolonged hospitalization, according to the complaint.

But Forman said all indications were that the baby was doing all right at the time and doctors should have moved forward with a cesarean delivery.

Forman also said the head of obstetrics and gynecology for Johns Hopkins Medicine found out about the case and told doctors it was inappropriate to offer termination and to tell Byrom the NICU would not be present at the birth.

There is no indication doctors corrected the misinformation with Byrom, according to Forman.

“Had she been told the right information, she would have continued to accept the C-section,” he said.

On Oct. 23, doctors induced labor. Zubida Byrom was immediately transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit without a heart rate and not breathing, according to the lawsuit. She was resuscitated in the NICU.

Doctors had stopped monitoring Zubida Byrom’s heartrate more than two days before her birth. Her injuries were attributable to lack of oxygen to the brain, Forman said. She did not have many of the common problems associated with premature birth.

In addition to malpractice, the lawsuit claimed a failure to obtain informed consent because of the misinformation and because Erica Byrom had not withdrawn her consent to a cesarean section in the event of her life being in danger, which was the stated reason for inducing labor later.

Zubida Byrom et al. v. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Inc.

Court: Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.: 24-C-18-002909

Judge: Audrey J.S. Carrion

Proceeding: Jury trial

Outcome: Verdict for plaintiff ($200 million in future medical expenses, $3,620,000 in past medical expenses, $1,020,000 in lost earning capacity, $25,000,000 in noneconomic damages)

Dates:

Incident: Oct. 24, 2014

Suit filed: May 4, 2018

Verdict: July 1, , 2019

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Keith D. Forman, Mary M. Koch and Sarah L. Smith of Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt LLC in Baltimore

Defendants’ Attorneys: Michael A. Brown, Leianne S. McEvoy and Kaitlin Del Vecchio Motley of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in Baltimore

Counts: Medical malpractice, informed consent


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