A D.C. Superior Court jury awarded $200,000 to a Greenbelt woman yesterday in a medical malpractice suit against the Washington Hospital Center where the woman claimed she suffered extensive abdominal injuries from faulty electrical equipment during a birth control operation three years ago.
The hospital was ordered to pay the award to Margaret L. Yergan, 39, who testified that the hospital supplied dangerous electrical equipment to Dr. F. Norman Berry to perform a tubal ligation on her.
According to testimony, the equipment burned a tiny hole in Yergan's small intestine during the operation on Oct. 22, 1976. The injury eventually led to an abdominal infection that required surgery to remove a section of Yergan's small intestine.
An expert witness testifying for Yergan said that burn was caused by a "spark gap" from an electrical wand inserted through a small hole in the abdomen to block the fallopian tubes. The spark was caused by too much electrical current passing through the instrument, the witness testified.
Berry, who was the only witness called by the hospital, testified that he was working about 1 1/2 inches away from Yergan's small intestine when he noticed her body quiver and saw a burn on the small bowel.
But Berry testified he thought the burn was superficial and would not result in a perforation.
Attorney John F. Mahoney Jr., who represented the hospital, argued that Yergan has not proved that her injuries were caused by defective hospital equipment. Mahoney also contested the extent of the injuries and the damage Yergan said she suffered.
Yergan, a chemical laboratory technician employed at the Washington Hospital Center, said under questioning by her attorney, Jack H. Olender, that she has lost weight, developed chronic indigestion and frequently suffers from diarrhea as a result of the injuries.
Yergan testified she decided to have the operation following a 1976 consultation with Berry during a yearly checkup.
"Dr. Berry told me he would allow me to stay on the birth control pill for only six more months, but being aged 35, I should consider another way of birth control," Yergan said in a statement submitted to the court.
"Dr. Berry told me there were three choices -- diaphragm, spiral I.U.D. or tubal ligation," she added. "I decided on tubal ligation."
Mahoney said he will file a motion within 10 days asking Judge Norma Johnson to reconsider the jury's verdict on the grounds that Yergan "did not present sufficient evidence to prove her case."