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What can doctors learn from recent record setting med mal cases?

Six recent medical malpractice cases resulted in jury awards in the millions. These cases include injuries during the birthing experience, medical procedures and medication errors.

Birth injury: Traumatic birth leads to serious injuries

Brain injuries due to traumatic birthing experiences accounted for four of the largest damage awards in recent history. Just last week, a jury awarded a family $229 million after a traumatic birth resulted in the development of cerebral palsy.

In 2018, the jury chastised physicians for failing to prepare for a potentially large fetus and intervene prior to the expected due date. The infant, 11 pounds at birth, got stuck within the birthing canal and suffered brain damage due to a lack of oxygen. The jury awarded the family $73 million. Another case during 2018 involved medical staff using forceps to assist a difficult delivery. The forceps fractured the infant’s skull and caused brain bleeds, resulting in physical and mental disabilities. The jury granted $42 million in damages. 

In 2012, a home birth gone wrong led to allegations the hospital did not promptly conduct a cesarean delivery. The hospital’s failure, the family alleged, led the infant to suffer severe brain damage. The hospital countered it acted reasonably and that the damage had occurred during attempts to deliver at home. The jury found in favor of the family, awarding $55 million in damages.

Brain injury: Lack of oxygen and brain damage

In 2018, a jury awarded $130 million to a family whose two-month-old infant developed cerebral palsy after an IV used for a medical procedure resulted in a loss of blood flow to the child’s brain.

Loss of limb: Blood clotting and amputation

In 2017, a jury awarded $62 million to a man who had to stop taking his blood thinner to get a test for lymphoma. Due to the stopped medication, he developed blood clots that led to the amputation of his leg.

Lessons from the cases

Most of these high award cases involve infants or young children. Medical professionals who face allegations involving young children are wise to take the allegations seriously. These cases can involve large awards as the families may need a lifetime of financial assistance to care for the injured. As such, it is important to carefully gather evidence and expert testimony to support that the patient was treated within the accepted standard of care.