Four years ago, Stacy Warden gave birth to a son at Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Colorado. The baby went into fetal distress, was not breathing and did not have a heart rate for 13 minutes due to complications during delivery.
Although the boy did live, he was left with debilitating permanent brain damage, resulting in the need for constant medical care for the rest of his life. Warden and her husband filed a malpractice lawsuit against the medical center, claiming that the hospital staff did not act quickly enough when they realized the baby was being deprived of oxygen.
After a four-week trial, a jury sided with the defendant hospital and the Wardens lost their case. The final blow to the family, however, occurred after the law firm representing the medical center filled papers seeking to recover legal fees and other costs from the Wardens.
A judge signed off on the “bill of costs,” ordering the family to pay a total of $340,000, which included legal fees, dinners and room service fees for attorneys and witnesses, transportation expenses (including airfare for a witness, as well as car service), and coffee, snacks and other food items for witnesses and defendants.
The family has said that it expects to have to file for bankruptcy. Although defendants in medical malpractice cases do not always pursue fees, this case serves as an example that they can, and when they do, the effects can be devastating. Whether this situation will dissuade others to go forward with medical malpractice cases remains to be seen.