Doctor's insurers liable for damages nearing $2 million


In an unusual trial, a medical malpractice insurance company has been found liable for almost $2 million in damages for negligence and bad faith representation of an anesthesiologist in refusing to settle a brain-damage case out of court.

The beneficiary of the jury verdict returned Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court is Deborah L. Evans, 43, a former city schoolteacher who suffered brain damage while under anesthesia during a routine gynecological operation at the old Lutheran Hospital in 1983.

Ms. Evans sued the anesthesiologist -- Dr. Clarence E. Beverly, who had suffered a serious brain injury in a 1975 fall and was told by his doctors to give up that practice. Another malpractice case involving the death of one of his patients at the Wyman Park Health System that year was settled for $1 million, and Dr. Beverly's Maryland license later was revoked.

A Maryland Health Claims Arbitration Office panel initially awarded Ms. Evans $500,000. Her lawyer, Marvin Ellin, sought the $1 million maximum under Dr. Beverly's insurance coverage from Medical Mutual and threatened to take the malpractice case before a Circuit Court jury.

When the two sides could not agree, the case was tried and the jury awarded Ms. Evans $2.5 million -- far more than Mr. Ellin had demanded to settle the case, and $1.5 million more than the insurance policy limit.

In seeking to collect, Mr. Ellin agreed not to seek Dr. Beverly's assets in exchange for the anesthesiologist's rights to sue his insurer on grounds of negligent representation.

A jury decided Tuesday that Medical Mutual should pay the additional $1.5 million plus interest -- a total of almost $2 million.

David A. Levin, an Annapolis lawyer who represented the insurance company, said it "spent hundreds of thousands of dollars" to defend its client and "brought in some of the top doctors in the world to testify."

"The jury was confronted by an insurance company as defendant and a very attractive plaintiff. The deck is stacked from that point on," he said. He added, "The argument was we didn't honestly and fairly look at this claim. If there was ever a claim that was looked at honestly and fairly, it was this one."

Mr. Levin said he would file motions against the jury's verdict.

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