The article, "Jury awards Mountain Brook couple $16 million in case against Brookwood Medical Center," originally appeared on al.com on August 06, 2016.
A Jefferson County Jury on Friday night awarded a $16 million verdict to a Mountain Brook couple on claims against Brookwood Medical Center for medical negligence and reckless fraud for the hospital's natural birth advertising campaign at the time of their child's birth in 2012.
The verdict came in just before 10 p.m. Friday after about 10 hours of deliberations and a two-week trial, said David Marsh, an attorney with the Birmingham law firm Marsh Rickard Bryan that filed the lawsuit on behalf of Caroline Malatesta and her husband, J.T. Malatesta.
The jury awarded $10 million in compensatory damages for the pudendal neuralgia nerve injury she suffered during child birth, $1 million to her husband for loss of consortium, and $5 million in punitive damages for reckless fraud related to a Brookwood ad and marketing campaign that had made certain promises about natural child birth, Marsh said.
"We felt the verdict was reasonable," Marsh said in an interview Saturday with AL.com.
While the verdict is large, it is consistent with the costs and future costs for Mrs. Malatesta's care and treatment for chronic debilitating pelvic pain caused by the birthing procedure, Marsh said.
Two attorneys that represented Brookwood in the case had not responded to email requests for comment prior to publication of this story.
The trial was held before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Joseph Boohaker. The verdict is subject to post-trial review by the judge and if it stands the verdict could be appealed by the hospital to the Alabama Supreme Court.
The Malatestas filed the lawsuit in 2014 against Brookwood Women's Medical Center and its parent company Tenet Healthcare Corporation.
Mrs. Malatesta had given birth to her first three children at St. Vincent's Hospital, according to her lawsuit. Before she became pregnant with her fourth child in June 2011 she became interested in natural birth, including water birth, after seeing a television ad, according to the lawsuit.
"Those Brookwood ads emphasized a mother's choice, individual birthing plans, freedom of movement and even mentioned water births. Caroline met with her newly chosen doctor at Brookwood and asked lots of questions before finally committing to a delivery at Brookwood," according to a blog post Saturday on the Marsh Rickard Bryan law firm website.
Marsh said that before the Brookwood natural birth
advertisements were aired the marketing campaign wasn't presented for review by its medical staff or its internal fraud review process.
"The so-called natural childbirth experience at Brookwood turned out to be a nightmare for the Malatestas," according to the blog. "Caroline had no freedom of movement; instead, she was restrained, sometimes forcibly. Caroline was offered no choice; it was the nurses' way or no way."
Brookwood defended the case by both blaming Mrs. Malatesta and trying to prove her injuries didn't occur during delivery, according to the blog.
Marsh said in the interview with AL.com that Mrs. Malatesta's baby boy was not injured during the birth and is healthy.
Mrs. Malatesta, however, has gone from a very active woman to having chronic debilitating pelvic pain from a condition called pudendal neuralgia, a nerve injury suffered during the birth. She has to spend hours each day soaking in tubs and has had to have nerve block treatments and medication, he said.
Rip Andrews, another attorney representing the Malatestas, said that one of the things that might have affected the jury was that after Mrs. Malatesta was flipped over, the baby was held inside her for 6 minutes until the doctor arrived.
Andrews said that Mrs. Malatesta is "one of the bravest" people he knows and is a lesson on how to live your life even when dealt a tough hand.
"I've never seen a jury more committed to doing the right thing," Andrews said.
Marsh said hopefully the verdict means that hospitals who target young women and market to young women to come to their hospitals for natural birth will be prepared to honor the mothers wishes and will be prepared to implement it in a safe fashion.
"Where two lives are involved you must be prepared and ready to deliver what's being sold to the mother," Marsh said. "Hopefully it will prevent other Caroline Malatestas from being injured or have their lives changed forever."
Alabama Fellow David Marsh, the founding partner in the law firm of Marsh, Rickard & Bryan,has been practicing law and representing Alabamians from all walks of life in personal injury and wrongful death cases for more than thirty years. Very often, Mr. Marsh is the lawyer other lawyers turn to when their friends and family members get hurt. This is reflected by his inclusion in the last fifteen editions of Woodward & White's Best Lawyers in America. In 2008, he was the top vote getter as Alabama's Super Lawyer. Mr. Marsh is a sustaining member of the Alabama Association for Justice, a member of the Birmingham and Alabama State Bar, the American Association for Justice, the American Board of Trial Advocates, and the American College of Trial Lawyers. David Marsh is Past President of the Alabama Association for Justice and continues to serve on the organization's Executive Committee. He has handled cases in every county in Alabama, and appeared before the Alabama Supreme Court, the Fifth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.