The Maryland Court of Appeals issued an opinion Friday in Spangler v. McQuitty, ending this cerebral palsy medical malpractice case that began 17 years ago. I first wrote about this case two years ago when the Maryland Court of Appeals heard this tragic case involving a boy born with severe cerebral palsy.
Facts of McQuitty
Ms. McQuitty was pregnant with her son. She had preexisting hypertension and a prior C-section. Twenty-eight weeks into her pregnancy, Mrs. McQuitty’ had profound vaginal bleeding. She went to Franklin Square Hospital Center, Inc. and came under the care of the defendant OB/GYN. A
Sonogram revealed a partial placental abruption. It is determined she needed a C-section for delivery which is very common with placental abruption. The question is when to perform the C-section.
The doctor told the parents of the possibility of immediate delivery by cesarean section if Ms. McQuitty’s condition did not promptly stabilize. If that happened, the OB said the likelihood was the child would die. A neonatologist at Franklin Square was more sanguine, telling the parents that the prospects for survival were “encouraging.” I know doctors can have different opinions, but it is so frustrating when you are the patient in that situation.
The parents went with the OB and delayed the C-section. The mother suffered a second abruption. Ultimately, the child suffered intrauterine growth restriction, “IUGR”, which the result of the decrease in the perfusion of nutrients to the baby resulting from the placental abruptions.
The doctor did not update the parents that this led to new choices and a new risk assessment. Plaintiffs’ Maryland malpractice lawyers argued at trial (in Baltimore County) that the doctor breached the duty to obtain the mother’s informed consent when he failed to give her an informed choice of her options to either take the baby early or assume the risks that come with letting the delivery play out. A Sophia’s choice. But it was the mother’s choice. The jury – to the tune of $13 million – agreed, and found that that the risks and benefits of these options should have been communicated to the patient, but were not.
So Plaintiffs had to slug out an appeal, lost in the Court of Special Appeals, but won in the Court of Appeals. After this big win, this tragedy was capped off with the young boy’s death, after suffering from cerebral palsy his entire life. Just awful.
Defendants, keeping it classy, filed post-trial motions asking – insanely – for a new trial or a reduction in the award of future medical expenses, alleging that the boy’s death was a “significant event [affecting] the equities” of the case. The defense attorney, accordingly, sought a reduction of future medical expenses – the jury awarded $9 million for past and future care – to only the treatment and costs incurred.
The Court of Appeals said that the judgment was final, and the defendant did not ask, as he could have, nor argue that he should be granted an annuity award, which would end his liability for medical expenses upon the child’s death. I don’t think the doctor would have won had he chosen this path. I bet the trial judge would have denied that request too. The Court of Appeals is just tweaking the defense lawyers a bit.
The court also found that the defendant is required to pay post-judgment interest from the verdict because… well, that is what post-judgment interest is.
Anyway, this was a long and hard-fought win for this plaintiff and her malpractice lawyers. You can read the full opinion here.