There is more to the trying of medical malpractice cases than proving that medical mistakes are made. Negotiating a settlement that can properly compensate an injured patient requires taking a large number of other considerations.
For example, the United States Supreme Court recently made a decision regarding a birth injury lawsuit that could affect rulings in every state including Ohio. The issue in that case concerns whether a state can place a lien upon a portion of the medical malpractice settlement that the family hoped to utilize in the child’s care.
The young girl was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after her birth, and her condition blamed upon errors made when a Cesarean section was performed during the child’s delivery. The girl is currently blind, deaf and mentally retarded. She will likely always require medical care due to her injuries, and probably will also require 24-hour-a-day care just in the meeting of her daily needs.
The matter was originally settled by her medical providers for $2.8 million. However, the state that the malpractice purportedly occurred in then attempted to place a lien on one-third of that amount. The justification for such a lien was that Medicaid payments had been made in support of the girl, and at least a portion of that went towards the paying of medical expenses.
Federal law prohibits states from attempting to recover money for anything but medical expenses in such circumstances as no reimbursement can be made to states if the award is for pain and suffering. The attorney for the family argued that since there had not been a distinction made between what portion of the settlement was for medical expenses and what portion went for pain and suffering, the lien placed upon the proceeds by the state was arbitrary. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the family’s argument and the lien was not allowed.
The family’s concerns about the lien were entirely understandable. Though $2.8 million may seem like a significant amount of money, it will be quickly depleted for all of the services that the suffering girl will now need to be provided. Also, few would disagree that the girl’s injuries, purportedly inflicted upon her due to medical mistakes, will cause her a lifetime of pain and suffering.