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One of the Largest Medical Malpractice Verdicts in Maryland Goes on Appeal

By Byron Warnken, on May 13, 2013

Appellate arguments were heard today in one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts, if not the largest verdict, in Maryland’s history.  The case is Enzo Martinez, et al. vs. Johns Hopkins Hospital, et. al.  The case was originally heard in Circuit Court for Baltimore City.  It is listed as case #24C11001081.

Enzo Martinez and his family were represented at trial by the firm of Wais Vogelstein Arfaa, including lawyers Gary Wais, H. Briggs Bedigian, and Keith Forman.  (Bedigian is now partners with Charlie Gilman, forming the firm Gilman and Bedigian.)  The appeal saw the addition of two appellate lawyers from Warnken, LLC, Byron Warnken and James Nichols.

The case was defended on appeal and at trial by Goodell Devries Leech & Dann.  The defense counsel team was led by Donald Devries.

The Court of Special Appeals bench was Hon. Deborah S. Eyler, Hon. Stuart R. Berger, and Hon. Kathryn Grill Graeff.  Prior to the bench, Eyler spent 15 years with the MD firm of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston.  Berger was formerly with multiple law firms that eventually became or were part of Saul Ewing and Graeff was with the appellate division of the Attorney General’s Office.  The Court of Special Appeals uses three-judge panels while Maryland’s Court of Appeals is nearly always the full slate of seven judges.

The jury verdict was slightly over $55 million dollars.  This consisted of $25 million in compensatory, $4 million in future lost wages, and $26 million in non-economic damages.  The non-economic damages were knocked down the cap of $680,000 in post trial motions.  The future lost wages were reduced to $2.6 million. The defense in this case has been quoted as saying the Martinez decision is easily the largest medical malpractice award in Maryland history.

Gary Wais has 108 total Maryland circuit court cases listed in our system, more than two-thirds of which are either “other torts” or “medical malpractice.”  Keith Forman has 42 listed cases and H. Briggs Bedigian has 81 listed cases.  Click here to see the full list of Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers.

Warnken led off arguments with discussion of separation of powers arguments related to the medical malpractice cap on non-economic damages.  Devries then argued, followed by Nichols.  Warnken noted this case involves a 97% reduction from the amount of non-economic damages awarded to the amount permitted under the cap.

At post-trial motions last fall, Devries acted incredulous at the amount of the damages in the case.  It seemed as though the defense team had forgotten the impact inflation has.  Numbers that seem big now will seem small in 50 years.  Victim in this case, Enzo Martinez, is projected to live with cerebral palsy for more than 50 years.

Issues that the oral argument centered around related to informed consent and lack of preservation, among others.  Just a bit of education for the layperson: In order for an issue to be raised on appeal, the party raising the issue must have objected when the subject came up at trial.  If the subject was not objected to, it may not be raised on appeal.  (This is a simplistic explanation of preservation, not covering all aspects and exceptions.)

The appellate decision is expected within a few months, though appellate decisions can sometimes take longer.

 

(Please note: The author of this post is Byron Warnken, son of appellate litigator Byron L. Warnken.  The author does consulting work for Warnken, LLC.)

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