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Birth injury lawsuits to be heard by U.S. Supreme Court

A young girl's delivery by cesarean section ended disastrously. The birth injuries she suffered have resulted in the girl being blind and deaf, and unable to walk or crawl. Because the girl now suffers from mental retardation and seizure disorders, she requires 12 to 18 hours of nursing care on a daily basis.

The family sued the obstetrician involved in the child's delivery. Since the child's birth, the state that she lives in has paid approximately $1.9 million in health care expenses. Because of this, that particular state has placed a lien on one-third of the settlement proceeds that came about due to this lawsuit. The family is now challenging the right for the state to be reimbursed for money that has been expended, and the case is expected to be heard by the United States Supreme Court.

A difficulty that arises in medical malpractice lawsuits in that not all money awarded is for simple reimbursement of medical expenses. Attorneys understand that victims of medical malpractice suffer grave injuries, and the quality of life is often substantially reduced.

The family in the above case argues that not all money agreed upon in the settlement was for medical expense reimbursement, and instead was to compensate the young girl for her pain and suffering. The family also argues that state law that allows for the state to be reimbursed interferes with federal law that prohibits liens on anything but medical costs.

This case will affect how medical malpractice cases are tried in other states including Pennsylvania. More importantly, this case shows how medical malpractice injuries detrimentally affect every aspect of an individual's life.

We will have to wait and see how the high court decides upon this matter.

Source: Charlotte Observer, "N.C. malpractice settlement to go before justices," by Michael Doyle, Sep. 26, 2012

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