Birth injuries are devastating because the injuries often cause permanent damage, emotional pain and suffering, and financial turmoil. In addition to these consequences, parents may never be able to hear their child talk or walk for the first time when their baby suffers a birth injury at the hands of a negligent doctor in North Carolina. Parents may also need to make major changes in their lives in order to make sure their child receives the constant, life-long medical care he or she may need after suffering a birth injury.
Thirteen years ago, a North Carolina couple gave birth to their daughter at a hospital in Hickory. The experience should have been joyful. However, the physician who had delivered the couple’s baby had failed to correctly perform a Cesarean section and the couple’s baby suffered severe injuries during delivery. The child, who is now almost 13, has cerebral palsy. She needs constant medical care for the rest of her life because she is deaf, blind and barely mobile.
Although the victim’s family won a medical malpractice settlement in 2006, the state is now trying to take one-third of the settlement from the family. The family is now taking their case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the state is trying to collect an excessive amount of the victim’s award.
In North Carolina, Medicaid beneficiaries who receive medical malpractice awards do not always end up getting the entire amount of their awards because state laws allow the state to collect one-third of their payments. But when medical malpractice victims suffer permanent injuries that require life-long medical care, losing one-third of an award could prevent some victims from receiving enough money to help pay for their medical care.
The North Carolina family is requesting that the Supreme Court recognize that the state’s law conflicts with federal laws and that the state’s laws also request an excessive amount from Medicaid beneficiaries who win medical malpractice awards and settlements. The family is arguing that the state should handle each case on an individual basis instead of automatically collecting one-third of victims’ payments. The family was awarded $2.8 million for their child’s birth injuries, but the state wants to collect more than $930,000 from the family.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision in the case later this year.
Source: Bradenton Herald, “Supreme Court weighs case of disabled child and medical malpractice award,” Michael Doyle, Jan. 8, 2013