One year after Johns Hopkins Hospital was hit with a verdict of $55 million in a single-plaintiff birth injury case, the Court of Special Appeals has vacated the judgment entirely and ordered a new trial. See Martinez v. Johns Hopkins Hosp., 1394 SEPT TERM 2012, --- A.3 ----, 2013 WL 3337277 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. July 3, 2013). The Baltimore City verdict was widely cited as the largest medical malpractice award in Maryland history, exceeding even what the Plaintiffs’ attorneys had requested.
However, legal error required a new trial. Specifically, the Hospital was precluded from putting on evidence at trial of the nurse-midwife’s negligence on the grounds that the uninsured midwife was not a party in the case. Instead, the trial judge limited the Hospital to merely reciting what the nurse-midwife did and prohibited it from characterizing anything she did as improper, negligent, or in violation of the standard of care for nurse-midwives. Plaintiffs then exploited the ruling to repeatedly suggest to the jury that the midwife’s grossly incompetent and dangerous treatment was appropriate for nurse-midwives. The appellate court explained that “the effect of the trial court’s ruling was that Martinez was permitted to argue to the jury that [the midwife’s] treatment of Martinez was appropriate. The Hospital, however, was precluded from arguing that [the midwife’s] actions were negligent.” Slip op. at 49.