A D.C. Superior Court jury awarded $3.2 million yesterday to the family of a 19-year-old Northeast Washington woman who died after giving birth at D.C. General Hospital four years ago.
Last March, Judge William C. Gardner ruled that the hospital had been negligent in its treatment of Tessie Love, who went into a coma after D.C. General doctors performed a cesarean section on her. She died 18 days later. The judge ruled that the hospital failed to administer the correct amount of anesthesia during the childbirth.
The jury that made the award, believed to be one of the largest malpractice awards ever handed down in this area, did not have to consider the question of negligence yesterday, but were asked to place a dollar value on the loss of Love to her husband, 6-year-old daughter and the 4-year-old son born by cesarean section.
"What value do you place on a 19-year-old mother with two children," attorney Barry J. Nace repeatedly asked the jurors during closing arguments.
The jury awarded $1.4 million to Love's son, Samuel Love III; $1.2 million to her daughter, Olivia Nicole, and $550,000 to her husband Samuel Love Jr., 27. The jury also awarded the family $84,000 more for funeral and hospital bills and loss of wages that Mrs. Love might have earned.
Assistant Corporation Counsel Joyce Notarius, who represented the city's only public hospital, said her office will consider appealing the jury's award. The city had offered to settle the case for $192,000 earlier.
Attorney Alan F. Post, who represented Mrs. Love's daughter, said the money awarded to the children will be under the jurisdiction of the court until the children reach the age of 18. That means their guardians must seek the court's approval for use of the money while the children remain minors. "When they reach 18, they will get the balance of the money," Post said.
Love's husband, who operates a restaurant in Northeast called Love's, will receive his award in a lump sum, Nace said. The couple had been married a year at the time of the death.
"I feel the damages are justified, but won't bring my wife back," said Love. "It makes me feel justice has been done."
The Love case is the latest of several judgments against D.C. General in the last two years. Last April, a jury awarded $210,000 to the parents of a 9-year-old boy who claimed their son died because the hospital failed to properly monitor his condition.
In 1981, the hospital was ordered to pay $2.5 million to a 17-year-old Oxon Hill girl born without arms who had learned to perform most functions with her legs, but lost the use of her right leg as a result of an operation performed at the hospital.
The hospital was also ordered in 1981 to pay $240,000 to a Southeast man who claimed his wife died because hospital officials did not transfer her to another hospital equipped with more sophisticated X-ray equipment.