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Maryland Appeals Court Overturns Largest Medical Malpractice Verdict in U.S. History

On February 1, 2021, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned a jury verdict of over $205 million against Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. 

The massive verdict is twice as large as the next largest medical liability verdict. In the wake of the verdict, at least four reinsurers  pulled out of the Maryland market, and Johns Hopkins  said doctors may refuse to care for OB patients if the verdict was upheld. Maryland medical liability payouts are twice as large as the national average, and in Baltimore County, they are three times larger than the national average.

Erica Byrom sued Johns Hopkins Bayview asserting that they violated her right to informed consent and were negligent in the treatment of her and her daughter, which resulted in her daughter’s severe mental and physical disabilities.  Plaintiff contended that she chose a natural birth over the doctor recommended cesarean section because she was not accurately informed of the chance of survival with a cesarean. 

In its appeal, Bayview argued that the trial court should have granted its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because plaintiff did not offer sufficient evidence to support a finding of failure to provide informed consent or negligence.

The Court agreed with Bayview and overturned the sizeable verdict.  The Court held that plaintiff offered no evidence that there was a material piece of information withheld from her that would have changed her decision.  In fact, she did not allege that the doctors failed to disclose any material facts from her.  Therefore, plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence that doctors violated her right to informed consent. 

The Court also held that plaintiff did not provide sufficient evidence that Bayview was negligent in her treatment.  The Court held that in this case, because the plaintiff did not testify, the jury could only rely on doctors’ notes as to why she did not consent to a cesarian section.  The notes said that she was concerned with the pain as a result of the surgery and wanted to “let nature take its course”.  The Court stated that in the end, doctors can only provide treatment to which the patient consents and plaintiff failed to prove that Bayview was negligent in their treatment. 

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