Two Silver Spring doctors and the Washington Hospital Center have agreed in an out-of-court settlement to pay more than $6 million to a child born with cerebral palsy.
The settlement--one of the largest payments ever for malpractice in the Washington area--calls for obstetricians Steven R. Goldberg and Marvin R. Rosenblatt to make annual payments for the next 60 years totaling $5.4 million to Jimmie Speight III, who is 2 years old today. An allegedly delayed delivery left him mentally retarded and subject to seizures for the rest of his life.
In addition, the boy and his mother, Areweeter Mayo, will receive $1,088,000 in cash now, with $500,000 of that coming from the hospital as part of the settlement. Three attorneys who represented Mayo and her son will be paid $630,000 of the immediate cash payment as their fee and to cover expenses in the case.
Six months after the boy was born, Mayo claimed in a lawsuit that Goldberg, the attending physician, had allowed her labor to go on too long, especially after drugs were used to stimulate labor and when there were clear signs of fetal distress, according to one of Mayo's attorneys, Jack Olender.
The suit also alleged that the hospital, which is responsible for the anesthesia administered, used a type of anesthesia known to cause less oxygen to go to the fetus' brain. Olender said that the combination of fetal distress and the anesthesia caused Jimmie, who is called J.J., to have spastic cerebral palsy. Its symptoms include mental retardation, severe speech impairment and a significant loss of motor control.
Multimillion-dollar jury awards are not unusual in medical malpractice cases, Olender said, but "to my knowledge, this is one of the largest malpractice settlements ever made in the District of Columbia or nearby jurisdictions."
Olender said he believed that if the case had been taken to a jury, the award might have been significantly higher. "But we could not gamble with J.J.'s future," Olender said.
The attorneys reached the settlement after long meetings last Saturday. The trial was scheduled to start this week in D.C. Superior Court before Judge Sylvia Bacon. Bacon approved the settlement earlier this week.
The doctors' lawyers could not be reached for comment yesterday. But one lawyer familiar with the case called it "a prudent and reasonable settlement."
Mayo declined to be interviewed, but said in a prepared statement that "Money can not give J.J. normal health, but he will now have the money necessary to give him good care and therapy. I hope this case will make doctors and hospitals more careful to avoid tragedies like J.J.'s."
Mayo lived in Silver Spring at the time the boy was born, but later moved to Danville, Va., to be with her relatives who could help her take care of the boy, Olender said.
Under the settlement, J.J. will receive $50,000 a year for the next 60 years and lump sum payment of $277,203 every 10 years for the next 50 years. At the end of 60 years, he will receive a lump sum payment of $992,805, Olender said.
The doctors' payments will come from the Maryland Medical Mutual Insurance Co., Olender said. The Washington Hospital Center is self-insured, he said.