After being in and out of court for over six years, a North Carolina family may finally be receiving the justice for which they've fought so long.
In 2006, the family reached a $2.8 million settlement with their physicians and hospital for medical mistakes that occurred during their daughter's birth. Their legal saga didn't end with the settlement, however. The couple continued to move forward with legal action, because the state of North Carolina seized nearly $1 million of their settlement, a common practice some are calling too broad-reaching. Now, the United States Supreme Court will hear the family's effort to reclaim some of their medical malpractice settlement.
When the couple's daughter was born by cesarean section in 2000, she received severe birth injuries. The improperly performed procedure caused the girl to sustain brain trauma that would prevent her from walking, talking and hearing. At this point, she requires between 12 to 18 hours of in-home medical care daily. The initial legal claim stated that the obstetrician had a history of drug abuse, though he claimed that he was not using drugs during the time the birth occurred.
Many states will take a portion of medical malpractice settlements and awards to help pay for the money that is given to plaintiffs through the state's Medicaid system. Few dispute the concept or validity of this exercise, but feel as though the policy in North Carolina claims to much of the malpractice awards.
The high court will determine whether or not North Carolina's medical malpractice claims law is "too broad." Under current laws, the state is allowed to take one-third of the total settlement. That amount may be too high for families that largely depend on the settlement to pay for years of medical bills that are incurred as the result of a medical accident.
Hopefully, the girl and her family will achieve the sense of justice they have been working hard to obtain. If they are successful, this North Carolina family could positively affect the lives of many other families in their situation.
- The Charlotte Observer, "N.C. malpractice settlement to go before justices," Michael Doyle, Sept. 26, 2012
- Our firm has experience dealing with the intricacies of pregnancy-related medical malpractice claims similar to the one covered in this post. To learn more, please see our North Carolina birth injury page.