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Bowel Malpractice

A widower has won an $8.5 million medical malpractice verdict against an Indiana hospital over his wife’s death. The woman, who had a dangerous bowel obstruction, died after the hospital failed to timely get an x-ray to doctors that showed her condition. During the trial, the man’s lawyers presented evidence demonstrating that the hospital failed to promptly get an x-ray to doctors that revealed the bowel obstruction, which is a life-threatening medical condition. The Plaintiff alleged that the hospital’s actions led to a one day delay in reading the film and postponed emergency surgery that would have cleared the obstruction and saved the woman’s life. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled several bowel cases arising from negligence. Some have been mesenteric ischemia malpractice cases and others have been bowel obstruction malpractice cases. Time is of the essence in treating such a condition, and timely communication among the health care providers is essential. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.

In this case, an interesting point is that the verdict will be reduced from $8.5 million to about $1.25 million due to a cap on damages in Indiana. Maryland also has a cap on damages. In Maryland, the current law, which can be found in section 3-2A-09 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, which states:

(a) This section applies to an award under § 3-2A-05 of this subtitle or a verdict under § 3-2A-06 of this subtitle for a cause of action arising on or after January 1, 2005.

(b)(1)(i) Except as provided in paragraph (2)(ii) of this subsection, an award or verdict under this subtitle for noneconomic damages for a cause of action arising between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2008, inclusive, may not exceed $650,000.

(ii) The limitation on noneconomic damages provided under subparagraph (i) of this paragraph shall increase by $15,000 on January 1 of each year beginning January 1, 2009. The increased amount shall apply to causes of action arising between January 1 and December 31 of that year, inclusive.

(2)(i) Except as provided in subparagraph (ii) of this paragraph, the limitation under paragraph (1) of this subsection shall apply in the aggregate to all claims for personal injury and wrongful death arising from the same medical injury, regardless of the number of claims, claimants, plaintiffs, beneficiaries, or defendants.

(ii) If there is a wrongful death action in which there are two or more claimants or beneficiaries, whether or not there is a personal injury action arising from the same medical injury, the total amount awarded for noneconomic damages for all actions may not exceed 125% of the limitation established under paragraph (1) of this subsection, regardless of the number of claims, claimants, plaintiffs, beneficiaries, or defendants.

Currently, there is a challenge to the cap on damages in wrongful death cases.