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Malpractice Verdict of $16 Million Allowed to Stand

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A San Diego-area judge refused to alter a jury verdict of $16 million in favor of the bereaved parents of an infant who died due to medical malpractice. After a nine-day trial, the jury found that Sharp Mary Birch hospital, two of its doctors, and a pathologist were guilty of negligence and fraud.

Teresa Bailey was admitted to the hospital for an induced delivery due to concerns about the health of the baby. Once in the hospital, however, Ms. Bailey received very little medical attention from her doctors. Tragically, during the delivery the infant became trapped in the birth canal with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. According to the parents and their attorneys, this is precisely the sort of complication that had prompted Ms. Bailey’s admission in the first place.

The conduct of the hospital following the baby’s death is perhaps even more shocking. Evidently the hospital’s pathologist lied to the mother and concealed the cause of death in the autopsy report, saying the infant had died of lung disease. The hospital contends that the jury findings are erroneous and that the damages award is excessive.

This case is not the first instance of a large jury verdict for medical malpractice during delivery. When a baby is injured or killed due to the negligence of a doctor, justice (and common sense) demands that the wrongdoer be held accountable. Although Michigan law makes it hard on parents who want their day in court and just compensation for their loss, individual victims do have legal recourse. This latest case is a reminder that juries do expect hospitals and doctors to accept responsibility for their actions.