Steve Lash//March 31, 2023
//March 31, 2023
A Baltimore County Circuit Court jury on Tuesday awarded nearly $34 million to the parents of a boy who suffered severe brain damage after being delivered by emergency C-section at 23 weeks despite no actual indication of fetal distress.
The award is expected to be reduced to $25.2 million due to Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
According to the complaint, Tara Anderson was misdiagnosed as being in preterm labor and fetal distress after reporting to the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson on Dec. 13, 2018, complaining of lower abdominal cramping and back pain. Medical tests administered to Anderson at the time indicated no signs of labor or placental abruption, the complaint stated.
“Indeed, the operative note indicates that the patient had no further documented contractions after her admission to the labor and delivery floor,” the complaint added. “It is not uncommon for a patient with a cervical insufficiency to experience back pain, abdominal cramps or Braxton-Hicks-like contractions/uterine irritability. Such a presentation, however, is not to be confused with actual contractions or premature labor.”
The hospital and attending physician, Eshanjit Sapra, have maintained that the C-section was medically necessary.
The complaint stated that shortly after the emergency delivery, Ethan showed signs of brain damage that has consigned him to a lifetime of dependence on others for care and support.
The jury, after a two-week trial and four hours of deliberation, found the hospital and Sapra liable for negligence and failure to secure Anderson’s informed consent for the emergency procedure.
The jury awarded the family $20 million for Ethan’s future medical expenses, $3 million for his lost earning potential and $915,000 for past medical expenses. The jury’s additional award of $10 million for the family’s pain and suffering is expected to be reduced to about $1.3 million due to the damages cap.
“This case was a very good example that the jury system works,” said attorney Jon S. Stefanuca, who represented the family with his law partner H. Briggs Bedigian.
“This is the right outcome in the right case,” added Stefanuca, of Gilman & Bedigian LLC in Timonium. “This verdict could not go to a more deserving family.
He said the verdict was not “extravagant” but “necessitated by the child’s needs to have any quality of life.”
The hospital said in a statement Friday that “we feel compassion for Ethan Anderson and the Anderson family, and recognize they face obstacles that few can appreciate.”
“At the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, our goal is always to ensure the delivery of safe, quality care for all of our patients and we stand strongly behind the care rendered by our team during a very challenging medical emergency,” the hospital stated. “With serious medical complications putting the mother and baby’s lives in danger, including life-threatening placental abruption and pre-term labor, there was no reasonable option other than to deliver Ethan at 23 weeks gestation. Absent the heroic efforts of our team that day, Ethan would not have survived. We respect the jury’s verdict but are disappointed in their decision.”
The hospital was represented by Christina N. Billiet and Neal M. Brown of Waranch & Brown LLC in Lutherville.
Sapra’s attorney, Nicholas Szokoly, did not immediately return a message Friday seeking comment on the verdict. Szokoly is with Murphy, Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore.
The case was docketed at the Baltimore County Circuit Court as Tara Anderson and Olijah Anderson v. University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center LLC et al., No. C-03-cv-21-000577.e