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Baltimore jury awards brain-damaged boy nearly $35M

Attorney Robert Weltchek

A Baltimore jury on Monday awarded nearly $35 million to a boy who suffered irreversible brain damage when health care personnel at MedStar Harbor Hospital were too slow to respond to the newborn’s lack of oxygen.

Jordan Biggs was healthy when he arrived in the Baltimore hospital’s special care unit at 4:45 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2007, but about 55 minutes later he had turned blue and had to be intubated, the boy’s lead attorney said after the verdict.

“He should never have gotten to a point where he was cyanotic,” Robert Weltchek said. “Where were the nurses?”

MedStar Harbor Hospital said in a statement Monday that “our hearts go out to this child and his family.”

“While we are disappointed in and strongly disagree with today’s verdict, we respect the legal process,” the hospital added. “We defended this case in court because we believe the clinical facts and the evidence presented support the outstanding care our clinicians provided.”

The circuit court jury’s award of $34.77 million followed a two-and-a-half week trial and two days of deliberation.

The award included $32.2 million in future medical expenses for Jordan, a 13-year-old who will always need a wheelchair, receive nutrition through a feeding tube and require assistance with all daily living activities. The other $2.5 million is compensation for his past medical expenses and future lost earnings, according to Weltchek, of Weltchek Mallahan & Weltchek, LLC in Lutherville.

The award exclusively covers economic damages and thus does not implicate Maryland’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering.

Weltchek said he deliberately sought no noneconomic damages to keep the jury focused on Jordan’s extensive medical needs and not on his family’s emotional trauma. Often sympathetic jurors will focus so much on compensating the pain and suffering — which unknown to them is capped – and neglect to compensate adequately the actual financial cost, which in the boy’s case is extraordinary, Weltchek added.

“The medical (compensation) was too important to risk,” he added.

The litigation came down to a battle of medical experts, with the hospital’s contending that Jordan’s brain damage resulted from compression of his umbilical cord in utero and the boy’s expert saying the harm resulted from negligence in the special care unit, Weltchek said.

“It was a very hard-fought case,” he added. “This case was a pure factual dispute over what happened.”

The trial also presented the pandemic-spurred challenge of litigating before a totally masked jury, Weltchek said, making it impossible for the veteran litigator to read the jurors’ faces for any indication of how the case was going.

“With masks on, you have no idea what their reactions are” until the verdict, Weltchek said.

The hospital was represented by Michael Flynn, of Gleason, Flynn, Emig & McAfee Chtd. in Rockville, and LaMar Jost, of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP in Denver, Colorado.

The case was docketed at Baltimore City Circuit Court as Jordan Biggs v. Harbor Hospital Inc., No. 24-C-19-005417.