Maryland Jury Awards $44 Million for Death of Premature Infant in Medical Negligence Case

If medical negligence is suspected in the death of a loved one, a Maryland wrongful death attorney may be consulted to investigate and identify potential legal claims and responsible parties.  In a tragic case before the Court of Special Appeals on May 18, 2018, the parents of an infant born via gestational carrier brought a negligence claim against the doctor and fertility clinic that facilitated and supervised the pregnancy.  The premature infant survived only 21 days before her death.

The plaintiffs in the case had entered into a gestational carrier contract with a woman who agreed to surrogate their child.  The woman failed to disclose her history of pregnancy complications, however, and the defendant-doctor proceeded with an embryo transfer without obtaining the woman’s prior medical records and clearance from the woman’s regular obstetrician.  After a successful embryo transfer, the woman became pregnant with the plaintiffs’ child.  Just 25 weeks into the pregnancy, the woman developed severe, life-threatening preeclampsia and underwent an emergency C-section delivery.  The infant succumbed to an infection and died not long after her birth.

Eventually, a review of the woman’s medical records revealed that during her last pregnancy, also as a gestational carrier, she developed preeclampsia and delivered the baby prematurely.  Medical experts testified that preeclampsia is known to worsen with each pregnancy, so the woman’s medical history should have disqualified her from being a gestational carrier.  After trial, the jury found the defendants liable for medical negligence.  The infant’s estate and the parents were awarded over $44 million in non-economic damages, although that amount was reduced by the statutory cap.

The defendants appealed on several grounds, seeking to reverse the judgment, but the Court of Special Appeals rejected all of them and ultimately affirmed the jury verdict.  One of the arguments asserted by the defendants was that the plaintiffs failed to produce sufficient evidence of the baby’s conscious pain and suffering to allow the claim for non-economic damages to go to the jury.  In a Maryland action for damages for conscious pain and suffering, the plaintiff must establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant’s negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the incident and that the deceased experienced conscious pain and suffering as defined by law.

The appeals court noted that there was no dispute that the infant was conscious over the brief period of her life; however, the issue was whether she suffered.  The court explained that only a reasonable inference of conscious pain and suffering is required to submit the claim to the jury.  The court concluded that the plaintiffs’ observations of the baby’s responses and description of her cries were sufficient to create an inference that she was suffering physical or mental anguish.  The court further found no need for scientific evidence to prove a premature infant’s capacity to feel pain.  Accordingly, the judgment in favor of the plaintiffs was upheld.

At Foran & Foran, our skilled personal injury attorneys can guide Maryland negligence victims and their family members through complicated lawsuits.  We have the resources to pursue medical malpractice cases, premises liability claims, and any other injury actions arising out of negligence.  To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at (301) 441-2022 or submit the contact form on our website.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Appeals Court Affirms Jury Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff in Medical Negligence Claim Against Hospital, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 7, 2017

Maryland Plaintiffs May Bring Wrongful Death Action Despite Successful Personal Injury Claim of Decedent, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 15, 2016