The Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, today upheld a $1.3 million verdict in a case tried by SCBMA partners, Michael Smith and Ryan Perlin, in an unreported opinion. The medical malpractice case was originally tried in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for one week in April 2014. After two days of deliberations, the jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs for $2.13 million, which was automatically reduced because of Maryland’s statutory cap on noneconomic damages.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Perlin represent the Watt family in the case. Suit was originally filed on their behalf in 2012, after Mrs. Watt underwent surgery to repair a persistent hiatal hernia. The first operation failed and her surgeon attempted a revision procedure. During the revision, the surgeon negligently utilized a synthetic, plastic mesh to hold the hernia in place.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Perlin presented evidence through well-credentialed, board-certified general surgeons that it was negligent for the defendant surgeon to use the plastic mesh in the first place because it was well-known to erode into the body’s tissues and cause serious, possibly fatal, complications. The experts also testified that the mesh was applied by the surgeon improperly. As a result of the negligence, the mesh slowly eroded into and through Mrs. Watt’s esophagus, preventing her from eating other than through a tube. She lost a significant amount of weight and required numerous subsequent surgeries and procedures. She has also required at least six endoscopic gastrointestinal procedures during which a laser is inserted into her esophagus to burn away the eroded mesh. Despite all of the procedures, Ms. Watt still has mesh in her chest and esophageal tissues.
The jury’s verdict awarded damages to Mrs. Watt for past and future medical bills that the Watt family incurred, past and future lost wages, loss of household services, and noneconomic (pain and suffering) damages.
The defendant doctor appealed to Maryland’s intermediate appellate court alleging that the trial judge committed numerous reversible errors. The defendant’s primary allegation was that the Watts should not have been permitted to recover the more than $300,000 in past medical expenses she has incurred for all of her treatment. The Court of Special Appeals rejected the defendant’s argument on that issue, and on all the issues raised.