$144 Million Verdict Against Hospital

On October 18, 2011, a Michigan jury awarded $144 million against Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. According to The Detroit News, Kimberly VanSlembrouck, the mother of Markell VanSlembrouck, sued the hospital and the delivering doctor for medical negligence and for causing permanent and life-changing injuries to her daughter, including severe brain damage and a fractured clavicle. The allegations of negligence stem from the medical providers’ decision to force 10-pound, 12-ounce Markell through the birth canal rather than performing a necessary, emergency Caesarean section. As a result of that decision by the medical providers, Markell will suffer permanent and disabling injuries for the remainder of her life.

The verdict was reached after a three-week trial and three full days of deliberation. According to the attorney for the mother, Geoffrey Fieger, “It’s about helping a poor baby who didn’t ask for this.” Indeed, the money awarded the mother will be used to pay for the 24-hour care for Markel for about 77 years, based on current medical cost estimates. In other words, this verdict is going to cover the cost to care for Markell for the remainder of her estimated life. This was not punishment; rather, this was compensation for the estimated cost of future medical treatment for Markell.

The hospital claims that “the child’s disabilities are related to a genetic condition” and the hospital has stated that it plans to appeal the verdict. This is a typical defense in birth defect cases and, apparently, the jury, after hearing and seeing all the evidence, completely disagreed with the hospital and the doctor. “The hospital and doctor have sadly still refused to acknowledge the truth…they are going to try to portray this as a runaway verdict when it’s them running away from responsibility.”

We all hear that there are too many lawsuits – I agree. If defendants and their insurance companies would accept responsibility, take accountability, and right the wrongs they caused – there would be far fewer lawsuits. Cheers to Geoffrey Fieger for fighting and winning what was no doubt a hard-fought and costly battle. While nothing can change what happened to Markell – hopefully this verdict will allow the family to care for their daughter and ensure that Markell can have the best life possible.