The nine months preceding the birth of a child is one filled with excitement, anticipation and wonder. Parents fantasize about their child’s appearance and personality. Most parents do not anticipate that their child will be so disabled that she would require 12 to 18 hours of nursing care each day. One family did not realize these were the challenges they would be facing when they became parents or that they would have to fight the state of North Carolina over their medical malpractice claim.
In Feb. 2000, a baby girl was born to a family. The girl was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Additionally, she is blind, intellectually disabled and deaf. The family decided to sue the doctor, who allegedly has a history of drug abuse, and the medical center where the girl was born. The parties eventually settled.
Unfortunately the family’s legal battle did not end there. The state of North Carolina mandates that Medicaid recipients who receive a medical malpractice settlement must, in a sense, pay back the money the state has spent on medical care. In North Carolina, the state claims a third of any monetary award. The family, dissatisfied with this mandate, took their case to the Supreme Court who sided with the family.
According to their ruling, the laws of the state contradict the edicts of the federal Medicaid laws. While they explained the state is entitled to some of Medicaid recipients’ medical malpractice settlement, North Carolina’s practice of taking a third of settlements is both arbitrary and unreasonable. Beyond the impact this ruling will have on this individual family, the ruling will have a much broader impact, also effecting Medicaid recipients who have received a malpractice settlement in states with similar laws such as Florida and Georgia.
Source: Star-Telegram, “Supreme Court trims N.C. share of disabled child’s malpractice settlement,” Michael Doyle, June 10, 2013