A Montgomery County jury awarded more than $40 million to a couple who claimed that their Rockville, Maryland fertility doctor failed to properly screen the surrogate mother who carried their child. The crux of the couple’s claim was that the standard of care required that the fertility doctor obtain and review the potential surrogate’s obstetrical and gynecological history before clearing the candidate to act as the surrogate. Although the doctor did inquire of the candidate about her history, the candidate lied by stating that she had previously carried four pregnancies to term without complications. The doctor, however, never obtained the pertinent medical records to verify the candidate’s representations.
What the couple did not know was that the candidate had in fact given birth to six children and that during the last pregnancy, she suffered from preeclampsia, a complication that resulted in premature birth. Unfortunately, the surrogate suffered from the same complication during the pregnancy with the couple’s child. The child was born at a premature gestation of 25 weeks and passed away twenty-one days later from what was described as “overwhelming” sepsis. It was alleged that had the fertility doctor properly and appropriately looked into the surrogate’s medical history – and not merely relied upon the surrogate’s statements – the couple would have had information which would have caused them reject the potential surrogate as a candidate. The fertility doctor’s defense was that it was appropriate to rely upon the representations of the candidate and not take any further action to verify those representations.
The verdict, which included $42 million for wrongful death and $2.1 million for the conscious pain and suffering of the child, will be reduced to approximately $890,000 pursuant to Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages.
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