In 2004, in the case Broadnax v. Gonzalez, the New York Court of Appeals changed state law to allow mothers to sue medical professionals for the emotional suffering resulting from a stillbirth they claim was caused by medical carelessness. The Court of Appeals decided that it was unfair to leave women who suffered the loss of their child due to medical error with no legal recourse.
Prior to this New York court prohibited these types of suits unless the mother suffered physical injury. The Court of Appeals later limited this ruling in Sheppard-Mobley v. King to situations where a doctor’s negligence caused the mother to miscarry or for the baby to be born stillborn.
In an appeal in 2011 for the case Ferreira v. Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, a $1 million malpractice verdict was upheld. This is still new territory, making it very difficult to set a value on this type of suffering. Lawyers on each side of this case made different analogies to support whether such a high award should be upheld.
The attorneys for the hospital argued that since there was no precedent in New York, the court should use comparisons with other emotional injury cases in New York, such as dog bite cases, and stillbirth cases in other states. The awards in these cases were much lower than $1 million. The attorney for the plaintiff argued that the computations for non-stillbirth cases in New York and stillbirth cases outside of New York were not comparable to such cases in New York.
He believed that more comparable cases included the suffering of a woman who had been accidently shot and the terror a passenger of an airplane felt prior to crashing. Both the awards in these cases were significantly higher than the awards in the cases the hospital’s attorneys presented.
Some attorneys believe that $1 million verdicts are too high and should not be considered a standard. New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corp. also believe that such awards are too high and would lead to many other victims of medical malpractice leading to stillbirths to seek the same amount.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.