Doctors, hospitals concerned about hefty malpractice awards
Maryland's medical community is concerned about the potential fallout from two multimillion-dollar malpractice judgments awarded by Baltimore juries to families who blamed local hospitals where their babies were delivered for their children's disabilities.
Doctors and hospital officials worry that juries, particularly in Baltimore City, are making decisions out of sympathy for sick patients rather than science. In the process, physicians said, these decisions may create an unrealistic benchmark for what future juries are willing to award — and lawyers are willing to seek — in such cases. Such rich awards also could drive up the cost of malpractice insurance for doctors, which likely would be passed along to patients.
The medical community's fears are unfounded, countered Gary Wais, a partner in the Pikesville firm that represented the families in both cases.
milies' claims. Wais said he told jurors in closing arguments not to let their sympathy for the child cloud their judgment.
The attorney representing MedStar maintains that jurors ignored the scientific facts. He said the family's lawyers wouldn't settle because they were banking on the sympathy of a Baltimore jury.
"The verdict was against all objective evidence that nothing happened at birth," said John Fitzpatrick, a MedStar attorney with Colorado-based law firm Wheeler Trigg O'Donnell. "The jurors did not look at the evidence objectively."
Doctors and hospitals say that perhaps there should be more tort reform.
The University of Maryland's Carver said the verdicts subvert the cap on noneconomic damages in Maryland. She also said the verdicts "demonstrate a failure of the courts to fulfill their responsibility as gatekeepers by permitting evidence with no basis in fact or science to go to juries."
"We are greatly concerned by the recent verdicts and will be asking the legislature to look at remedies," Carver said.
Most doctors acknowledge that victims of doctor error should be awarded. But complications happen in medicine, said Gene M. Ransom III, CEO of MedChi.
"These kinds of verdicts are just not sustainable," he said.
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