A jury returned a verdict in favor of a Brooklyn mother in the amount of 26 million dollars after an understaffed hospital recklessly sent the pregnant woman home without proper monitoring. Speaking to the New York Post, the mother, Danielle Madden Buck, described Maimonides Medical Center as a “baby mill” that brushed away her complaints ultimately leading to an early birth for her twins, Aleigha and Madelyn, weighing only l.5 pounds each. Madelyn died a month after birth, Aleigha is still alive but is deaf and cannot speak, along with a host of other medical issues. The jury agreed with Buck that if it were not for Maimonides Medical Center’s negligence then at least some of the twins’ health problems could have been mitigated.
The events leading the lawsuit began on February 9, 2010 when Buck went to Maimonides Medical Center with cramping and spotting. Because the hospital was allegedly understaffed, only a medical resident (student still training to be a doctor) was available to see Buck. The resident promptly sent Buck home. When the cramping and bleeding became worse later in the day, Buck went back to Maimonides only to be sent home again.
Buck did not return to the hospital until February 17, for a routine sonogram. At this point, one of her twins’ heads was crowning. The hospital was only able to delay labor until February 28. After losing one of the children only a month later, Buck sued the hospital for 13.5 million dollars. In the lawsuit, she claimed that if the hospital had not sent her home then she would have been able to delay giving birth much longer. After only eight hours of deliberations, the jury quickly agreed and awarded 26.2 million dollars to the mother – twice as much as she had asked.
However, because Buck had entered into a “high-low” deal with the hospital, she will receive 7.5 million dollars. “High-low” deals are common in high-stakes personal injury cases. The two parties to the lawsuit agree on a “high” number if the plaintiff is successful and a “low” number if he or she is not. In this case, because Buck received a verdict for more than the $7.5 million dollar “high”, she will receive 7.5 million dollars. If the jury returned a defense verdict, she would have received 1.5 million dollars and. Regardless of the result, the high-low agreement avoids the potential for time consuming appeals. For Buck, the benefit is that she and her child will receive financial support regardless of the jury verdict. For the hospital, it can limit potentially higher exposure. The jury did not have any knowledge of the “high-low” deal until after it reached the verdict.