Federal Appellate Court Overseeing Maryland Courts Finds Defendant Doctor Did Not Breach the Duty of Care He Owed to the Plaintiff’s Newborn Daughter

On July 11, 2019, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a case that raises an interesting and important issue for those who are considering filing a Maryland medical malpractice case. Specifically, the case required the court to determine whether the plaintiff’s evidence proved that the defendant’s conduct breached the duty he owed to the plaintiff’s daughter.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was the mother of a baby who was born with severe brain damage. Evidently, when the baby was born, she exhibited signs of respiratory distress. The hospital where the baby was born did not have a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Thus, it was common for hospital staff to transfer babies in need of serious medical attention to the nearest NICU.

The doctor overseeing the baby’s care, however, determined that the baby could be appropriately cared for at the hospital’s “Max Care Nursery.” After monitoring the baby for a few hours with no improvement, the doctor consulted with another specialist. The specialist took the baby under his care and eventually transferred the baby to the nearest NICU. As a result of respiratory distress, the baby suffered severe brain damage. The plaintiff filed claims against all doctors who treated her child, as well as the hospital. However, only the doctor overseeing the baby’s care remained, as all other defendants settled with the plaintiff.

The plaintiff presented expert witnesses to support her claim. The experts testified that the baby should have been transferred to the NICU earlier, or the doctor overseeing the baby’s care should have sought an elevated level of care at the hospital. However, on cross-examination, the expert admitted that by transferring the baby to the specialist, the defendant doctor did seek out an elevated level of care. The expert also admitted that it was not absolutely necessary to transfer the baby to the NICU right away, and that there were viable care options at the hospital.

Considering the expert’s testimony, the court concluded that the defendant doctor did not breach the duty of care he owed to the plaintiff’s newborn daughter. The court explained that in medical malpractice cases, a plaintiff must establish a breach of a professional duty by presenting expert testimony. The court noted that, according to the plaintiff’s own expert’s statement, the defendant doctor’s actions were within the bounds of reasonable care. While there may have been other decisions that the defendant could have made to avoid the eventual outcome, the court explained that a doctor does not need to make the best possible decision.

Have You Been Harmed by a Medical Professional’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC we represent injury victims and their families in all types of injury claims, including Maryland medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney who can help you understand the process and how we can help, call 410-654-3600 today.

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