An Anne Arundel County family was awarded nearly $35 million by a Baltimore jury Monday, ruling that MedStar Harbor Hospital in South Baltimore neglected to properly treat a newly born child’s dropping oxygen levels, causing him to suffer severe brain injuries that will permanently disable him.
The jury found that the hospital did not properly handle the deteriorating condition of Jordan Biggs, one of twins born at the hospital on Aug. 19, 2007, who had trouble breathing upon his delivery.
According to the lawsuit, Biggs was born a little less than a month early and was initially apneic — a condition of breathing difficulties — upon delivery, needing bag valve mask ventilation before he was able to breathe on his own. His twin brother, Jaden, was born healthy, according to the family’s attorney, Robert Weltchek.
Biggs was then admitted to the hospital’s Special Care Nursery around 5 a.m., where he was initially healthy and able to breathe on his own.
According to the lawsuit, Biggs suffered an apneic episode around 5:15 a.m. and began to struggle to breathe. Staff used “blowby oxygen” — a technique of introducing oxygen by blowing it past a baby’s face, sometimes used when infants become agitated from other methods — as well as other methods to improve his condition, the lawsuit reads.
However, around 5:40 a.m., his condition severely deteriorated. Weltchek said that Biggs turned blue and his oxygen readings were at dangerous levels.
Biggs was intubated and placed on a ventilator, according to the lawsuit, but was found to have high levels of acid in his body fluids and suffered three seizures while being treated.
He was taken to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital later that day, where a CT scan found he’d suffered a brain injury likely caused by a lack of oxygen, the lawsuit reads.
Now 14, Biggs was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and has various disabilities, requiring round-the-clock care.
Weltchek said the jury agreed that the hospital mishandled initial signs of Biggs’ condition and that nurses who initially treated Biggs received an alert about his declining oxygen levels and did not properly contact the on-call pediatrician.
Weltchek said staff did not contact the on-call pediatrician until 5:40 a.m., with Biggs being left alone for several minutes while he could not breathe.
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“He was problematic for several minutes before 5:40 a.m. and there’s zero documentation,” Weltchek said.
Neither a spokeswoman nor an attorney representing the hospital responded Monday to requests for comment.
The jury awarded the family roughly $1.2 million for past medical expenses, $32.2 million in future medical expenses and $1.4 million in future loss earnings.
It’s one of several lawsuits in recent years where families have alleged a hospital’s negligence has led to their newborn children suffering brain damage.
In 2019, a Prince George’s County woman was awarded $205 million after a jury agreed that her child’s brain injury and cerebral palsy were caused after doctors did not properly inform her of the options for delivering the child.
However, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned the ruling earlier this year, saying the hospital properly warned her the child could suffer brain injuries if she chose to forgo a delivery by cesarean section.
In 2012, a Baltimore jury awarded $21 million to a Glen Burnie couple whose son was born prematurely at Harbor Hospital in 2002. The parents said their son, now also diagnosed with cerebral palsy, lost oxygen while in the womb and doctors allowed for a prolonged vaginal birth rather than opting for a C-section.