A Montgomery County jury awarded $44.1 million to a Bethesda couple who alleged that their Rockville, Maryland fertility physician did not properly screen the surrogate mother who carried their baby. After the surrogate became pregnant, the couple learned that she had a history of complications she did not disclose to the doctor.
The surrogate delivered a little girl three weeks premature. After birth, the child was placed in neonatal intensive care, and she died some time later, due to sepsis and extreme prematurity. The couple then sued the obstetrician and her Rockville practice for medical malpractice and wrongful death.
Medical malpractice claims are rooted in the legal doctrine of negligence. Negligence refers to the failure of a person to exercise reasonable care in their conduct. Reasonable care is defined as how a prudent person would behave in the same or similar circumstances. In the context of medical malpractice claims, negligence occurs when a medical professional fails to use the level of care used by other medical professionals in the same specialty under the same or similar circumstances. Wrongful death claims are appropriate when negligence causes the untimely and preventable death of a loved one.
The couple claimed that the doctor was negligent in failing to screen the surrogate for potential medical concerns that could interfere with the pregnancy. While the doctor did look into the surrogate’s history, the surrogate had lied by saying she had carried four pregnancies to full term without any issues. The doctor, however, never checked to make sure this was actually true. What the surrogate failed to tell the doctor was that she had given birth to six children, and during the last pregnancy she had developed preeclampsia, which caused the premature birth of the sixth child.
In the case at hand, the couple argued that the same condition caused the premature birth and ultimate death of their daughter. According to the parents, if the doctor had independently verified the surrogate’s medical history, they would have been able to reject her as a potential surrogate. They further stated the doctor had a duty to tell them that she did not look into the surrogate’s medical records prior to choosing her as their surrogate.
The couple claimed severe emotional distress and mental anguish, due to their daughter’s death. As a result, they asked for compensatory wrongful death and survival damages.
Ultimately, the jury decided that the doctor and her practice were negligent and that this negligence was a direct cause of the baby’s death. The couple was awarded $44.1 million. This included $42 million for wrongful death and $2.1 million for the child’s pain and suffering. However, due to Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages, the total award was reduced to $887,500.
At Arfaa Law Group, our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys have years of experience when it comes to dealing with medical negligence claims. We understand the kind of emotional toll these cases can have on your family and you, which is why we try to make the legal process as seamless as possible for you. For more information, do not hesitate to call 410-889-1850 or contact us online.
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