Some of the most heartbreaking cases in the legal system involve birth injuries due to medical negligence. Indeed, a birth injury can lead to profound physical and psychological damage. Sometimes, a child will require a caretaker for the rest of their lives.
In the U.S., one in every 33 babies born is affected by a birth injury, Centers for Disease Control statistics show. In addition, the CDC says, congenital disabilities cause 20% of infant deaths. That’s more than any other cause.
Because the cost to care for babies with birth injuries can run into the millions, here are two stories on the subject currently making headlines.
Florida Amending Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan for Birth Injuries?
On April 8, Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer, called for an audit of the state program overseeing care for children suffering catastrophic childbirth injuries. The Office of Insurance Regulation, which will examine the finances of the state’s Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association (NICA), falls under Patronis.
The Florida Legislature created NICA in 1988 to:
- Control the soaring cost of malpractice premiums for doctors;
- manage diminishing liability insurance availability by creating a hybrid no-fault and tort medical liability system; and
- help families provide care to brain-damaged infants without having to pursue prolonged legal action.
So, what prompted Patronis to act now? It appears he was motivated by a series of articles in the Miami Herald, following a joint investigation into NICA by the paper and news organization ProPublica.
The outlets reported, among other things, that NICA was shortchanging families. Though the association had accumulated $1.5 billion in assets, it refused to pay benefits. In fact, there were times NICA would spend tens of thousands more in legal fees fighting requests for benefits than pay parents the requested benefits.
House Bill 1165 Would Modify Payments
At the same time NICA is facing public scrutiny, the Florida Legislature is considering a bill to change the Birth-Related Neurological Compensation Plan (NICP), in the following ways:
- Increase the amount awarded to parents or legal guardians of infants that sustained birth-related neurological injury from $100,000 to $250,000 for claims filed on or after January 1 of this year;
- Increase the award by 3% each year on the first day of each year; and
- Raise the death benefit for an infant that sustained a birth-related neurological injury from $10,000 to $50,000.
If the bill passes, it will go into effect July 1, 2021.
Maryland Court Overturns Landmark $205 Million Birth Injury Award
Back in 2019, one of the largest malpractice verdicts ever rendered in the United States was handed down to a Maryland mother. Erica Byrom claimed that Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital treated her negligently and withheld information about her daughter’s delivery options.
But in February, the Baltimore Sun reported the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned the $205 million award.
The appellate court found that against Bayview’s clear advice, Byrom, then 16, refused to consent to a Cesarean section unless her own life was in danger. She chose a vaginal delivery despite Bayview’s warnings.
Plaintiff Attorney “Disappointed” in Verdict
In its opinion, the court noted, “the consequences were tragic.”
Byrom’s daughter, Zubida, suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen during the delivery. The child has cerebral palsy and needs around-the-clock care.
Her attorney, Mary Koch, said she and her client were disappointed in the unanimous ruling and will ask the Court of Appeals to review the case.
In the past, Maryland lawmakers proposed legislation requiring doctors, hospitals, and insurers to pay into a state fund for families of children suffering brain damage at birth. However, those attempts were unsuccessful.
Creating a birth injury fund would help control medical malpractice costs and bring resolution to families, supporters say. It would also help avoid prolonged legal fights.
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- Reasonable expectation of the standard of care
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