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Florida appeals court overturns medical malpractice settlement

A Florida appeals court has ruled two-to-one that a Palm Beach County physician and the medical practice for which she works do not have to pay a $2.5 million judgment in a suit brought by a couple whose baby was born in 2008 with severe birth defects. The medical malpractice case alleged that the couple’s physician did not tell them about the condition of the baby until it was too late to terminate the woman’s pregnancy. The case has been sent back to the court to be re-tried.

The appellate court determined that the lawyers representing the practice and the doctor should have been allowed to bring up the fact that abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy are “largely illegal in Florida.” The trial judge had rejected their argument as “irrelevant.”

According to DigitalJournal.com, the mother testified that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she had been aware of the child’s serious deformities. However, since the couple was not made aware of the baby’s condition until the woman’s early third trimester ultrasound, she could not legally have had an abortion in Florida. The plaintiffs alleged that the woman’s original ultrasound “fell below the standard of care” and impacted the quality of subsequent ultrasounds. Therefore, the baby’s severe deformities, including a missing leg and hands, were not discovered until later in the pregnancy.

The majority of the appellate court ruled that the defendants had a right to make sure the jury received the information on Florida’s abortion laws. The dissenting judge pointed out that the mother could have gone to another state to have a late-term abortion, so Florida’s law should not have been brought into the case, as it would have only complicated things.

It was not reported whether the plaintiffs are going to move forward with retrying the case. However, the couple is faced with caring for a severely-impaired child due to what they believe were improperly-performed ultrasounds during the mother’s pregnancy. Medical malpractice damages can help ease the financial burden on families, and the patients themselves, who have to cope with a lifetime of expensive medical treatment and care.

Source: Jacksonville Daily Record, “Malpractice verdict overturned due to abortion issue” Jim Saunders, Jan. 09, 2014

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