Bryan Santana was born without arms and with only one leg. On Friday a Palm Beach County Jury awarded Bryan’s parents $4.5 million to help them buy prostheses, wheelchairs and other medical services experts say he will need to live any semblance of a normal life.
This lawsuit touches on a very controversial topic and was brought under Florida’s wrongful birth statute. Florida is one of about 25 states that allow parents to sue on behalf of children with disabilities, claiming they wouldn’t have had the child had they known the extent of the child’s disability.
The jury found that Dr. Marie Morel and an ultrasound technician fell below the standard of care by negligently administering a sonogram. But for their negligence, they would have discovered the abnormalities, and had Ana Mejia and Rodolfo Santana known about the abnormalities, they would have terminated the pregnancy.
As reported by the Sun Sentinel, jurors were appalled that the technician and Morel reported seeing four limbs on the second ultrasound Mejia received. When questioned, technician Tamara McClain couldn’t explain why she noted that in the report Morel signed.
Because of this lawsuit, the office has changed its protocol. In accordance with national standards, it identifies each limb.
The $4.5 million is half the $9 million an expert said the couple will need to assure Bryan is cared for throughout his estimated 70-year life.
Juror Rebecca Long said the jury wanted to send a message that the care Mejia received was unacceptable, and that she was glad to hear of the change. “There’s no reason this should have happened,” she said.
The clinic wasn’t the only one to miss Bryan’s abnormalities. St. Mary’s Medical Center failed to detect them on three ultrasounds it administered. It reached a confidential settlement with Mejia and Santana.
As previously noted, this cases touch on the very sensitive issues of abortion and Medical Malpractice. It is difficult enough to find jurors on Medical Malpractice cases that do not have strong opinions against Medical Malpractice Claims, let alone juror’s that feel a parent has a right to terminate a pregnancy if their child has abnormalities.
The next hurdle for the family may be collecting on the judgment. To that end, the attorney that represented the doctor in this case, generally represents only uninsured doctors. This is also a troubling trend in South Florida, in that doctor’s are purchasing only “cost of defense” insurance. This leaves the doctor with a judgment entered against him/her, and a victim without the much needed money to care for themselves or a loved one.