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H. Briggs Bedigian: A record medical malpractice verdict goes against the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

The $183 million verdict against UPenn Hospital topped a previous record of $100 million, set in 2000.

Philadelphia Inquirer By Harold Brubaker, April 26, 2023

A Philadelphia jury on Friday awarded a $187 million medical malpractice verdict against the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

A Philadelphia jury on Friday awarded more than $180 million to a child born in 2018 with severe brain injuries at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, lawyers for the child's mother said.

The award, part of which will be paid over the child's lifetime, is the largest ever by a jury in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice case, according to one industry source.

The mother's lawsuit alleged that the child, now 5 years old, was injured because Penn doctors delayed performing a cesarean section even though they knew that the mother had an infection in her uterus.

"This injury was entirely avoidable, meaning had they delivered an hour before they did, this child would have avoided all neurological injury and would have been a normal, bouncy 5-year-old running around terrorizing the world," Briggs Bedigian, a lawyer at Gilman & Bedigian LLC who represented the family, said in an interview Tuesday.

The child has cerebral palsy, permanent brain damage, and substantial neurodevelopmental delays, making him completely dependent on others for care, according to court documents.

Penn's lawyers from Burns White argued that the child's brain injury occurred before his mother arrived at HUP's emergency department on Feb. 22, 2018, and that the mother received "appropriate and timely care" from doctors and other staff.

"We are disappointed in this verdict and continue to believe that appropriate medical care was provided. We plan to appeal this decision," Penn said in a statement Tuesday.

Record-setting verdict

"It's the largest medical malpractice verdict in Pennsylvania," said Shanin Specter, cofounder of Kline & Specter PC, a prominent Philadelphia medical malpractice and catastrophic injury firm.

The previous record was $100 million, awarded in 2000 for a child who suffered brain damage and the amputation of an arm because of a botched surgical procedure.

If Friday's verdict survives an appeal, Penn, or its insurance firms, will not have to write a check for more than $180 million. Instead, the health system will be able to buy an annuity, a type of investment that will pay over time for the estimated $100 million cost of the child's care, Bedigian said.

The cost of that annuity would likely be $30 million to $40 million over the child's lifetime, he said. The cost of care is based on a projection that the child will live 65 more years. If he does not, Penn would not have to pay the rest of the money, Bedigian said.

Additional awards were pain and suffering, Bedigian said.

The total award was $182.7 million, according to the verdict sheet filed Wednesday on the Court of Common Pleas docket.

During the three-week trial, one area of contention was whether the child is in a vegetative state, as Penn contended.

Bedigian and his partner in the case, Merritt Lentz, brought the child into the courtroom for no more than 20 minutes to show that wasn't true, Lentz said.

"The jury could see that he was responding to mom, so they could see the bond between mother and child," Lentz said.

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