Maryland court upholds $20.6 million judgment in cerebral palsy birth injury lawsuit

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by Michael Heygood

Shantiah Norfleet was 32 weeks pregnant when she was admitted into Baltimore’s MedStar Harbor Hospital in September of 2002. Because Mrs. Norfleet and the baby had potentially dangerous high blood pressure, the doctor decided to induce labor.

The following day, while Mrs. Norfleet was in labor, a fetal heart rate monitor showed the baby was low on oxygen, according to a lawsuit filed by the Norfleets against the hospital. During a two-week trial, the Norfleet family presented expert medical witnesses who testified that Jaylan’s low oxygen levels should have prompted a Cesarean-section delivery. Instead, the doctor let labor continue for an additional three hours, according to the lawsuit.

Jaylan was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and he was deprived of oxygen, according to the family’s experts. Jaylan developed spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, in which he is not mentally impaired but has difficulty moving his legs and arms and will always use a wheelchair. The family’s experts testified that the failure to timely perform a Cesarean-section caused Jaylan’s injuries.

In response, the hospital presented experts who testified that vital signs taken after delivery indicated Jaylan had not been deprived of oxygen. The hospital’s experts also called it nearly impossible for the umbilical cord to have compressed Jaylan’s carotid arteries and jugular vein.

Following trial, a Baltimore City Circuit Court jury entered a verdict of $21 million against the hospital. The jury awarded Jaylan’s family $18 million for Jaylan’s medical care, $2 million for lost potential wages, and $1 million for noneconomic pain and suffering. The court entered judgment for the family for a reduced $20.62 million, because of a state law cap on noneconomic damages.

The hospital appealed. A panel of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals has now upheld the judgment in favor of the family. The appellate court rejected the hospital’s argument that the family had failed to provide legally sufficient evidence that Jaylan’s cerebral palsy was caused by the delivery. According to the Court of Special Appeals, the trial came down to “a classic battle of the experts” and it was the jury’s role to decide which to believe.

“Running through [the hospital’s] causation in fact contentions is the suggestion that the evidence presented by their expert witnesses was so overwhelming that the court erred by letting the matter go to the jury,” the appellate court wrote. “The argument is misplaced. As in any case the jurors were entitled to believe all, some, or none of either expert’s opinions.”

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Our attorneys’ medical malpractice verdicts, settlements and results include a $6.75 million settlement for the family of an 8 year-old child who suffered permanent brain damage due to medical errors, a $2.2 million jury verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit arising from the premature discharge of a newborn infant from the hospital with low glucose levels, and arguing the appeal in a case where the Texas Supreme Court upheld a $9 million dollar jury verdict in medical malpractice case.

Our firm’s success is largely due to the fact that we are real trial attorneys and have tried hundreds of cases to verdict. Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all board certified* and have been voted by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas for several years in a row.** Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, please contact us by calling us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by filling out our case evaluation form for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.