After a jury awarded over $35 million to a woman in a medical malpractice case (later reduced to $32.5 million), the defendant appealed the verdict on a number of grounds. This case involves a woman who was a marathon runner and exercise class instructor who complained of dizziness. An MRI revealed that she had a “venous varix” in her brain, which is similar to an aneurysm. However, this was not found to be the cause of her dizziness. Her primary care doctor, an employee of the defendant, received a copy of this MRI but never noted the venous varix on her problem list.
A few years later she became pregnant. Since her obstetrician did not know about her venous varix, and she had no way of knowing it was relevant, she did not have a Caesarian section as recommended for people with the condition and instead gave birth naturally. Some hours after giving birth she suffered a debilitating headache and went into a coma for a month. After the coma her left side was paralyzed and she now has difficulty chewing, swallowing, and speaking. She will most likely need 24/7 care for the rest of her life. Based on these facts, at the initial trial the jury awarded her $35 million which was later reduced due to a calculation error. The hospital appealed.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, you should contact an experienced Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. They can help you to understand your rights and any recovery you may be entitled to under the law.
The healthcare company first tried to argue that they should be able to take advantage of the $20,000 cap on damages for charitable organizations. However, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals upheld the court’s finding that the cap does not apply because the defendant did not plead it as an affirmative defense. That means that the burden is on the “charity” to prove that they are eligible for the cap, which did not happen in this case. The defendant moved to amend the pre-trial filings to include pleading that they are eligible for the cap but the court did not allow it as the plaintiff’s specifically objected to this designation during the trial.
Defendants also argue that one of the expert witnesses testified beyond the scope indicated in pretrial disclosures. The court did not find any merit to this argument as the parties sufficiently disclosed the anticipated testimony of the expert witness and the defense was not prejudiced at all by the testimony of the witness that went beyond the disclosures as they could have found the same information. The defense also tried to argue for a new trial because the witness was paid by a contingency fee. However, the court distinguished the contingency fee payments to the consultants made by the plaintiff from contingently paying witnesses directly in a way that may change their testimony.
Finally, the defendants argue that the initial miscalculation which led to the verdict being reduced to $32.5 million had an “anchoring” effect on the whole proceeding resulting in inflated damages. Essentially, the defendants are arguing that the jury misunderstood the amount of future medical bills. However, the court here again declined to order a new trial on these grounds as they found nothing about the verdict so shocking as to require a new hearing. Thus, the $32.5 million verdict was allowed to stand.
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If you are worried that you or a loved one have been a victim of medical malpractice, you should contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The skilled medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at Neumann Law Group serve Boston, Worcester, Canton, and other areas in Massachusetts. Call us today at (617) 918-7790 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free consultation!
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