Jury clears doctor and Columbia Medical Plan of wrongdoing in stillbirth


A Howard Circuit Court jury has ruled that the Columbia Medical Plan and one of its doctors did not cause a Glen Burnie woman to deliver a stillborn baby in 1987.

The six-member jury issued its verdict Thursday in a wrongful death suit filed by Lula Jones, whose son was born dead on Aug. 20, 1987, two days after visiting Dr. Francoise Abrams of Columbia.

Mrs. Jones and her husband, John Jones Sr., filed suit against Dr. Abrams, Columbia Medical Plan and Patuxent Medical Group in November 1991, claiming that the doctor's negligence caused Mrs. Jones' baby to be stillborn.

Attorneys for Dr. Abrams and the medical companies argued during a four-day trial that the doctor met the standard of care when examining Mrs. Jones on Aug. 18, 1987.

"This baby showed every sign of being healthy," said Mark Gately, a Baltimore attorney. "That's all Dr. Abrams can do."

But Joanne Suder, a Baltimore attorney for the Joneses, said that Dr. Abrams failed to heed numerous "red flags" when administering a non-stress test to determine the condition of the baby.

Ms. Suder noted that Mrs. Jones at that time was a 40-year-old woman suffering from anemia and hypertension, and she was past due in delivering her fifth child.

The Jones suit contends that Dr. Abrams negligently misinterpreted the results of the test. Instead of administering more tests or admitting Mrs. Jones to the hospital for delivery, the suit says, Dr. Abrams sent the patient home.

"This is not a case about a bad doctor," Ms. Suder said. "All it is, is a case about a doctor who made a mistake."

Mr. Gately dismissed the "red flags" raised by the plaintiffs, saying that they had little or no effect on the unborn baby.

The Joneses did not ask the jury to award them with a specific amount of damages. However, their suit asked for no less than $40,000.

The suit marks the second case in two weeks involving the Columbia Medical Plan and one of its doctors.

A jury awarded a North Laurel woman nearly $1.3 million in damages -- the largest civil judgment in the history of the county courts -- from the company and Dr. Jon Minford of Columbia.

The jury ruled that Dr. Minford and the company were negligent when they failed to treat a blood disorder that damaged the woman's liver to the degree that she may need a transplant.

Columbia Medical Plan officials said they plan to appeal the verdict.

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